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.

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.

The Hungry Ones by Chris Sorensen

The Hungry Ones - Chris Sorensen

THE HUNGRY ONES picks up soon after the events that tortured the little family in THE NIGHTMARE ROOM and adds a new setting and several new characters. I read the Nightmare Room in July 2018 so it’s been awhile and my memories are a tad bit fuzzy. I was able to follow along but wish I had read them back to back so things would’ve been fresh in my head.

Jessie, recovering from a breakup with her fiancé – he with the roving penis, as well as a traumatic injury, decides to start anew and purchases Motel Hell! I’m only sort of kidding. There aren’t any people being turned into sausages here (damn because that fiance might've deserved it) but she has purchased a rundown motel where a crazed man shot down several people two years prior. Now I want to be the next Norma Bates as much as the next slightly unhinged person, but I think even I might think twice about this decision!

The motel is not quite open yet but Jessie has a few guests needing a place to rest their weary heads including the Larson family from the previous book who are on the run after their last ordeal. But fleeing the things that haunt them isn’t as simple as hopping in a car and driving away. The arrival of people seems to awaken something within the walls of the motel and the Larson boy, who has already endured so much, now has to battle supernatural forces. Poor kiddo. I really felt for him and his parents. I also enjoyed meeting Jessie who is a resilient, strong and decent person. I know she’s not real but if she were she would be someone I’d like on my side.

Though this is a different book than The Nightmare Room, which was a slow build of creeping dread, it had enough chills to keep me happy and I enjoyed revisiting the characters and meeting the new ones. If you’re an action fan and love a story that moves, you’re going to find a lot to like here. There’s also some “eww” inducing body horror that involves a sliver that just won’t leave and that kind of stuff always makes me cringe also makes me very happy.

The Hungry Ones is a strong entry in The Messy Man series that builds up its world and keeps things fresh. Go grab yourself a large mug of whatever, a comfy blanket and settle in with both books. I’m sure you deserve it!

 

Source: Received for review consideration

The Swallows by Lisa Lutz

The Swallows - Lisa Lutz

The Swallows takes a look at the sexual antics taking place at a small private school. Antics that are allowed to continue even as underage girls are rated and shamed and end up leaving the school when the hoard decides to turn on them. It’s pretty awful stuff and the title is exactly what you might think it is as well as a little something more.

All the things get stirred up when a new teacher arrives at the school. She has the teens fill out an anonymous questionnaire and notices some disturbing answers that send her on a mission to find out exactly what “The Dark Room” is and why so many fear/hate it. One thing leads to another and the young ladies realize they have a way to fight back and fix the power imbalance and when it happens it is a glorious thing. Though I wish it had been darker and nastier but I’m a terrible person who definitely reads too much horror, haha.

This book was one of those infectious reads that make you stop everything to keep reading/listening. I knew revenge was ultimately coming because I might’ve sneaked a peek at a review or two just to be sure and I was there for it. My only real complaint was the huge cast. It’s too large for this book, if you’re asking me, and especially if you are listening on audio because many voices sound too similar. And everyone has a side-story. There are teachers, students, groundskeepers, a parent or two. I had some trouble keeping up with names and histories and connections and hookups and other dastardly deeds, I cannot lie. Even with that said, it was a still a strong enough gossipy story that I never felt the need to shut it down forever. I’ll always wish the ending had been longer (it felt SO rushed), bleaker and meaner but I know all books can’t end the way Cockblock by C.V. Hunt did!

Come Join Us by the Fire

Come Join Us By The Fire - Gerard Doyle, Ramon De Ocampo, Joe R. Lansdale, China Miéville, Chuck Wendig, Richard Kadrey, M. Rickert, Stephen Graham Jones, Kij Johnson, Brian Evenson, John Langan, Victor LaValle, Karina Sumner-Smith, Lucy A. Snyder, Paul Tremblay, Robert Levy, Simon Strantzas, Livia

This is free. Go get yourself a copy! Link here

If these stories are any indication of what we can expect from Tor’s new horror line NightFire, we have some excellent horror fiction to look forward to in the brand new year! The production and narration is excellent and the writing is strong and polished. You might want to grab yourself a copy while it is still free. I’m betting you’ll find something here you will love.

As with all collections of this type, some stories will work better than others because we can’t love them all but there are NONE that are badly written. Not a one. So what it comes down to is personal taste so here are my thoughts.

NO MATTER WHICH WAY WE TURNED by Brian Evenson starts things off with a creepy-weird little short perfect for a collection called "Come Join Us by the Fire". It reads more like a poem but it sets a mood of unease right off the bat.

DADDY by Victor Lavalle spins a tale about a new father facing new father fears that are ratcheted up a thousand notches when his son tells him about the man speaking to him at night. This is chilling on a deep level . . .

THIS GUY by Chuck Wendig is a quickie that is violent and over in a blink.

FLAYED ED by Richard Kadrey puts a spin on horrorshow Ed Gein. One that will thrill and disturb any horror fan! I think it’s a must listen, for sure.

THE POND by Paul Tremblay tells a tale about how ghosts are made. It’s dark, it’s haunting, and it is very good stuff.

HER BODY, HERSELF by Carmen Maria Machado is a story about the kind of fear that most women will feel deep in their bones. I wish it were longer and hope to read more by this author soon.

THE GIRLS FROM THE HORROR MOVIE by Gwendolyne Kiste is about a former scream queen and the movie that just doesn’t want to let go of her and her twin sister. This is creepy done amazingly well and Kiste is an excellent writer. Also while I’m here, go read THE RUST MAIDENS, if you haven’t already. You won’t be sorry.

THESE DEATHLESS BONES by Cassandra Khaw – Ahhh, words aren’t adequate to describe how perfectly horrific I found this little story. Anyone who loves dark fairytales needs to drop everything and read it right now. It is everything I wish for in a short horror tale. Beautifully written, dark perfection.

IT WASHED UP by Joe R. Lansdale – The polluted sea coughs up a monster! This was a dark but light-heartedly bleak interlude. I know that makes no sense but if you’ve read Lansdale you will know what I mean.

STEMMING THE TIDE by Simon Strantzas wasn’t a favorite because the lead protagonist annoyed me with his ugly, judgy thoughts. I was also left with some big questions when it ended.

MIDNIGHT CALLER by Stephen Graham Jones features a final girl facing her worst nightmare! This story was so clever. I loved everything about it.

BLACK BARK by Brian Evenson was a weird tale about a strange piece of bark and two unfortunate men. This is SUCH a weird one! I’m not quite sure what I read here but I can tell you that I’m not sorry I read it.

THE ANATOMIST’S MNEMONIC by Priya Sharma features a man looking for love but he has very strict requirements so he’s having a tough time and has to take matter into his own hands. It gets a little grisly at the end which is always a bonus in my book. That’s why we’re all here, right?!

RABBIT HEART by Alyssa Wong – This is my kind of bizarre story. If you’ve read and loved Bunny by Mona Awad you should read this story. You NEED to read this story because I think you will love it. It reads almost like a companion piece to Bunny. And if you haven’t read Bunny yet, you should go do so if you like weirdness!

THE BEASTS OF THE EARTH, THE MADNESS OF MEN by Brooke Bolander is about a woman’s search for an unholy whale. It’s all about action and adventure on the high seas and it wasn’t my favorite because I’m not a huge fan of action or adventure but it is well written.

COLD, SILENT, AND DARK by Kary English is dark and lovely and ended just perfectly.

WHEN THE ZOMBIES WIN by Karina Sumner-Smith is a depiction of what happens when the world is over run by zombies. Yep, it is just as bleak as one would expect.

HAROLD THE SPIDER MAN by Paul Tremblay is going to make your skin crawl. Harold is a little weird but he is kind to spiders. Perhaps a little too kind. This story was a lot of fun to read. It’s darkly comical and also darkly disturbing!

PONIES by Kij Johnson is a cotton candy coated nightmare of a story about fitting in. This one will haunt me until the day I die. I swear it.

BLACK NEUROLOGY by Richard Kadrey is a gruesome love story filled with ick, ick and more ick!

BEWARE OF OWNER by Chuck Wendig - Be warned, herein lies kitty violence and this is just the tip of the horror in this house of yikes and hell nooooo’s! This is a nasty little piece of work that I could barely finish because of the dastardly kitty violence. Sorry, this is how I am. I don’t like reading that stuff but maybe you do? Read what you want. I won’t judge.

THE VAULT OF THE SKY, THE FACE OF THE DEEP by Robert Levy – An old woman recounts a harrowing tale of human atrocity.

DON’T TURN ON THE LIGHTS by Cassandra Khaw is a tale of changing stories. I love the way this author writes, immediately immersing you in her unsettling world.

WASP & SNAKE by Livia Llewellyn is the chilling tale of an assassin who gets some frightening body modifications in order to become more efficient at her job. This story gave me early Barker vibes and is incredibly disturbing. It is a must-read if you are a body horror fan.

GREENER PASTURES by Michael Wehunt - A long haul trucker meets a man who may be haunted, or may be off his rocker but he listens anyway and that’s a huge mistake. This was a creepfest and made my little arm hairs stand on end.

AND WHEN SHE WAS BAD by Nadia Bulkin is a story about a monster and the final girl AFTER the carnage has happened. This is an amazing story of strength and anger and transformation from the point of view of a woman who has had ENOUGH! I wouldn’t change a single word and loved everything about it.

EL CHARRO by John Langan – Imagine this, if you will. One moment you’re chatting with friends about a book and the next you’re a prisoner of a monster, ahhh! This one didn’t make a huge impact on me but I didn’t hate it.

DREAM HOUSE by Kat Howard - Cara buys her dream house. An old mansion filled with dark corners and it immediately feels like home. Eventually she finds out why. This is a feel good creepfest. Is that a thing? If not, it should be and it is now.

SPAWNING SEASON by Nicholas Kaufmann- This is a dark fairy tale about a town beholden to the sea. It is super imaginative and so very good.

IN SHEEP’S CLOTHING by Molly Tanzer – An apocalypse happens. The beginning tells you how it ends but it’s the getting there that is all the horrific fun. So weird, so gruesome, so freaking bizarre!

57 REASONS FOR THE SLATE QUARRY SUICIDES by Sam J.Miller – A bullied teen with a unique gift reflects on the cost of his revenge. I didn’t like this story at first because I’m not fond of lists as a form of storytelling but it grew on me so stick with it if you’re anything like me.

WAS SHE WICKED, WAS SHE GOOD? by M. Rickert - A pretty little cherub performs atrocities that her ineffective parents are left to clean up. Nothing really is what it seems and this story will chill you to the bone if kids are what scare you the most!

A LIFE THAT IS NOT MINE by Kristi DeMeester – A worn out exhausted teacher tells the tale as her life is slowly consumed by darkness. This one will resonate deeply with anyone who feels stuck in a soul sucking job or in a life that they’d never wish upon themselves.

THAT WHICH DOES NOT KILL YOU by Lucy A. Snyder is a gory little tale of a heart-wrenching break-up. It is a tale as old as time but with a killer twist.

THE DESIGN by China Miéville, I believe, is the longest piece here. It is about a medical student who discovers bones etched with designs. The need to find out more and decipher their meanings consumes him. This one didn’t grab me. Maybe I was too exhausted when listening? Maybe it was the narration that didn’t mesh with my sleepy head? Or maybe it just didn’t grab me? Anyhow, I may revisit it and report back but I might not.

As I said way up there, it’s FREE (at this moment) so there’s no reason you shouldn’t nab a copy and settle in for some unsettling stories!

Wilder Girls by Rory Power

Wilder Girls - Rory Power

I’m not the hugest fan of books marketed as young adult. I have absolutely nothing against them but I’m no longer the target audience for them, I suppose, so I don’t actively seek them out. This is where reading friends come in. I will always make an exception when several friends assure me that “you will like this one”. That’s how I ended up reading Wilder Girls. It also won the group read poll for the Ladies of Horror Fiction November group read so I had to read it anyway, haha. Fortunately for me, it was excellent and gory and the teens here were smart and not navel gazing, annoying, love-struck fools. There was no time for that in a story such as this and I will die on this hill! Also, don’t take any of my statements seriously. I am a fickle reader and I may fall back in love with YA next month or possibly tomorrow.

This is a weird book. The best kind of weird. It starts off in the thick of things, months after something called the Tox has infected all of the flora, fauna and the surviving residents at a remote (isolated island kind of remote) all-girls’ boarding school. The students, a headmistress and a young teacher have been quarantined and survive with the help of supply drop-offs provided by the military as they await a cure that the Navy promised “is coming”. The infection is what is weird as it physically changes them, its symptoms are different from person to person and it is always gory and gruesome and extremely painful. If body horror is your thing, this book is probably meant for you!

Hetty, Byatt and Reese are the main characters in this story and are struggling to survive each flare-up of the Tox, while looking out for each other and ferreting out secrets. And there are many secrets. Things are not at all what they seem and that’s all I’m going to say about that.

These characters are all complicated as are their relationships with each other. There is no insta-love in this book because in this story nothing comes easy and I can’t express how very much I appreciated that. These girls have dealt with many tragedies and trauma and live in fear but somehow manage to keep it together, taking the changes in their bodies as they come and never complaining about it.

Typically I’m the type of reader who wants all of her questions answered. This book spends its pages slowly doling out information and leaving you wondering what the hell is truly happening for most of the book and, in the end, not giving you any concrete answers. Arggghh. My nosy self is having a fit right now, not going to lie, but sometimes it is best to think on a book and this is one of those books. I am torn between wanting a sequel and not wanting all of the mysteries revealed in another book. As I said, this is a weird one and some things should simply stay weird without getting explained away.

4 ½ stars to this brutally raw and imaginative book. It is an incredible debut and I’ll definitely be reading this author again – sequel or no sequel!

A Little Light Mischief by Cat Sebastian

A Little Light Mischief: A Turner Novella - Cat Sebastian

I grabbed this copy from my library after listening and loving Cat Sebastian’s “The Ruin of a Rake” (which is part of this Turner series). That book was five stars for me. This one here is related to the series and features a story about two ladies finding friendship, love and a little light mischief. I love it when the title fits the story as this one does. It’s short but it doesn’t cut corners when it comes to developing the relationship which is impressive.

The plot isn’t a complicated one, which is something I’m not going to complain about, haha. Alice was disowned and tossed out of the family home and is now a companion to a wealthy lady. She misses her nieces terribly but has accepted her lot in life. She spends her days embroidering fripperies and trying to look away from the bosom and backside of Molly, the too alluring housemaid. But Molly feels the eyes on her bod and doesn’t mind at all. They develop a friendship which eventually turns into more. Molly “I have three knives and a reputation for bloodshed” is street savvy and together the two cook up a plan to exact a little revenge on a dastardly man who totally deserved it.

This story was great fun. There’s a little lust, a little love and overall it’s just a feel good romance with lovely writing and engaging dialogue. The audio narration was also beautifully done. It’s a definite recommend even if you haven’t read Ruin of A Rake BUT WHY HAVEN’T YOU?!

My Pretties by Jeff Strand

My Pretties - Jeff Strand

I’ve read a few Jeff Strand books and that man has one skewed sense of humor. I love it. He manages to make me laugh while I’m wincing at what’s occurring in the scene. That’s some talent there. If you have a dark sense of humor you should really check out some of Strand’s many works. He has written in several genres ranging from the road-trip romance Kumquat, the bizarro Facial, thriller Stalking You Now and a slew of straight up horror that you should seek out. My Pretties is as good a place as any to start though because you’ll get a good dose of his sarcasm and who doesn’t need some of that in their life?

This story is more one about the evils of man. And woman. Both are equally evil when they want to be and especially if they’re not wired quite right. It’s about the bad stuff humans do to each other. The only monsters here are of the human variety but the carnage that happens within these pages is just as horrific as any supernatural horror monster tale I’ve ever read. So if you’re asking me, and I’m sure you were, I’m calling it horror. Or horror-thriller-suspense. Whatever. I don’t really give a cat’s butt about the categorization because it is nasty and it is gory and it is great fun. That’s really all you need to know but I’ll tell you a little bit more.

Ken likes to abduct long-haired brunettes. I am not going to tell you what he does to them. You’ll have to read the book for that horrific information. Gertie’s cousin has gone missing (at least I think it was a cousin, my memory isn’t so great and I didn’t write that down – sorry) and Gertie has taken it upon herself to do some vigilante work. She dons a wig and hangs out in sketchy areas at night hoping to attract Ken’s attention. This is probably not the best course of action but Gertie has good intentions. No one else seems to care about these missing ladies so I can’t get mad at her for that. She engages her new co-worker Charlene in this scheme because Charlene is up for anything. I loved Charlene who is smart-mouthed and sarcastic and a wee bit more level headed than her new friend Gertie .

These not-so-best laid plans surprisingly go off track. Haha. That’s all I’m saying about the story.

If you want some suspense, some black humor and some gore in your life you can’t go wrong with this book. It has all of those things and a bunch of other unpleasant (in the best way) surprises too. I was never, not once, tempted to jack up the speed on my player to get things over with quicker because the pacing is just right and the narrator does a great job with the female voices and a decent one with the males. I can easily recommend it to all of you weirdos who like this sort of thing as much as I do! 

Where Stars Won't Shine by Patrick Lacey

Where Star's Won't Shine - Patrick Lacey

An author is haunted by the serial killer he spent years researching. And he’s not the only one!

Tucker Ashton went on a killing spree that took the lives of many (most) of the people residing in Marlowe, MA and he’s been locked up until now . . .

Three people feel compelled to travel to Marlowe for reasons of their own despite the fact that Ashton may or may not be on the loose. Call them crazy, if you will, but their reasons make a lot of sense once you get to know them and the author takes care creating their motivation for putting themselves in peril. Ivy needs closure because the love of her life was one of Tucker’s victims, Zeke is a collector of serial killer memorabilia and is obsessed in a bad way with Tucker and Ethan is a man desperate for a little cash no matter the cost. They all hole up in the decrepit Marlowe hotel which seems the perfect place for a little murder, lol.

There is something strange going on in Marlowe but there’s no way I’m going to spoil it. The fun of this book is discovering exactly what the heck is going on and it surprised me at many turns. Especially the final reveal. Wow, I can’t express how much I loved it! So fitting, so perfect, SO DARK. Yes! He went there and I couldn’t be happier about it.

Anyhow, this is a creepy book that builds a unique little world for itself while also crafting interesting, imperfect and haunted characters which I always appreciate. It also keeps you off kilter. I had no clue what was happening or why until the author chose to reveal it to me. That’s good writing in my book. I enjoyed the excerpts from the serial killer book which were placed throughout the story giving you a bit of background on the killer who was fascinating in his horribleness. The build is slow and I appreciated that and when the action starts it doesn’t stop until the very end.

A definite recommend for any horror fan.

Little Paranoias by Sonora Taylor

Little Paranoias - Sonora Taylor

I read and adored Sonora Taylor’s novel WITHOUT CONDITION earlier this year and will likely read whatever she decides to put out from here on out. She isn’t afraid to write about the darkness that lurks inside the heart of (some) women and she has a skill for setting a scene and building a mood as well as creating her characters in a way that totally works for me.

Little Paranoias is a collection of flash fiction, poetry and short stories. There are twenty of them and they are all moody and while I liked some better than others, none of them were duds. I’ll highlight my favorites so I don’t write another book length review like I did for this one because no one has time for that!

Weary Bones was my absolute favorite and will be the only story with a paragraph all its own. Five skeletal stars. It begins with grief, love, with hope, and with the need to extend life as long as possible but some things shouldn’t be messed with and a well-intentioned idea turns into a nightmare. Very few people want to deal with the consequences and the responsibility falls on those with an extreme sense of empathy. This is such a moving story. Go read it before I end up spoiling it!

Never Walk Alone and Always In My Ear are morbid little morsels filled with dark secrets! Cranberry is also intense and felt so painfully real. It’s about callous and clueless parents and the daily hurts they inflict on their offspring while they go about their lives having no idea how damaging words can hurt. This story will resonate with anyone who ever felt the stab of their parents words in their most tender of spots. There are stories about rage, bullies, narcissists and nature fighting back (go Mother Nature!) and one that will have me giving the side-eye to all of those Stick Figure People I see on mini-vans! There’s a little something for any horror fan here.

What holds them all together is a writhing darkness whether it is an external force or one more intimate. At any rate, each tale bleeds black and it will make any dark fiction fan very happy.

A Stranger on the Beach by Michele Campbell

A Stranger on the Beach  - Michele Campbell

A snooty woman named Caroline has moved into her brand new million dollar beach house and spies a hunky beach bum staring at it with longing in his beautiful eyes. She assumes he’s out to rob her. So what does she do? Call the coppers, maybe? Nope. She sleeps with him! And things go terribly awry from there because she is married but it’s sort of, kinda okay because hubs is cheating too.

 

What is wrong with me that I am drawn to these kinds of books? Please don’t answer that.

 

Anyhow this book delivers if you’re looking for an unbelievable tale about wealthy jerks with lots of secrets doing terrible things to everyone around them because they can. For me it veered too far into ridiculousness and I truly despised Caroline who was conceited and spoiled and just 100% ugh. I don’t care how beautiful she was supposed to be, I found it very difficult to believe the beach bum (Aiden) who was closer to her daughters age would fall so fast and hard for her when she wasn’t even nice to him. He was weird. I know I was supposed to dislike Caroline so that’s actually a strength of the book because man did I despise her but I also figured out what was going on long before the big reveal and I’m not really good at these guessing games and that is the fault of the book. I will give it points for making me guess for a bit with all of its unreliable narrators and for keeping me hooked until the end because I had to know if I was wrong.

 

I’ll give it three stars for its fearlessness in using coincidence to get from point A to point B and for using its unbelievable plot twists to its best advantage and also for creating such ridiculous people. I probably wouldn’t read it again but I’m not sorry I stuck it out until the end.

A Rogue By Night by Kelly Bowen

A Rogue by Night (The Devils of Dover Book 3) - Kelly Bowen
This is book 3 in the "Devils of Dover" series and features Harland who is the brother of the two sisters whose stories were told in the previous novels. He was the aloof doctor always running here and there with no time for dalliances. This time he finds love and adventure. I guess it’s the adventure bit that threw me off because I didn’t enjoy this one as much as the previous two. Well, that and the smuggling plot line. That was just not at all for me.
 
And can we talk about this horrendous cover? What did Harland ever do to deserve this pouty, shaggy haired, bug eyed cover shot? Couldn't they have cleaned him up first? Given him a little trim?

Katherine comes from a family of smugglers and has the skills of a surgeon but she is super vague about her training when she meets Harland after her brother is shot. She has reasons. The two have a frisson of sexual tension that blooms into some full blown insta-love without the witty banter and fun I love from a good romance. Kate has her back up and she’s a bit rude and because of a past love she has turned herself into a human ice pop who does not want to be licked - errr melted by love. Neither she nor he want or expect the feelings but the feelings won’t be denied. What can you do? They only intensify once he brings Kate and her brother to his family estate so the brother can recover.

So, I nearly DNF’d this story when Kate’s brother puts her life in danger because they’re all going to starve to death if she doesn’t do as he asks, apparently. Personally that sounded a wee bit dramatic but I wasn't living back in those times. Anyhow, since I was listening on audio I decided to stick it out and it wasn’t awful. It wasn’t my favorite either and it’s not a romance that’ll stick with me. I found it hard to believe that Harlan who is a baron which makes him titled and rich and super important (right?) is also a full time doctor and a helper of the smugglers. Shouldn’t he be off riding horses, tending to his estates and tying the perfect cravat? Hell if I know. What I do know is that you SHOULD NOT START THE SERIES HERE. Read the other two first or you'll really have questions. Anyhow, if you are a completest and/or have nothing better to do when you are scrubbing the house, give it a go. But honestly there are much better romances out there in the world. I’d recommend seeking out one of those instead.

I’m giving it a 2.5. Some of it was okay but some of it was aggravating and sleep-making because I personally find smuggling adventures uninteresting. You might love smuggling and love at first sight and if you do I say go for it!
 
 

 

My Halloween Bingo Tracking Post

Bingo Update 10.21.19.  I HAVE A BINGO! 

 

 

Clean card: 

 

Square Description LInks:

http://moonlightreader.booklikes.com/post/1932159/all-61-squares-revealed-1-through-18

http://moonlightreader.booklikes.com/post/1932167/all-61-squares-revealed-19-through-38

http://moonlightreader.booklikes.com/post/1932882/all-61-squares-revealed-39-through-61

 

Books In Progress & Books Finished:

 

Book #1:  Stolen Roads by Randy Chandler - giant Creepy Crawlies (ahh!)  called&read (done on board)

review:  http://barklesswagmore.booklikes.com/post/1949605/stolen-roads-by-randy-chandler

 

Book #2:  Teeth In the Mist by Dawn Kurtagich - Demons Square 

review (not called):  http://barklesswagmore.booklikes.com/post/1950983/teeth-in-the-mist-by-dawn-kurtagich

  

Book #3:  To Be Devoured by Sara Tantlinger:  New Release Square 

review (called):  http://barklesswagmore.booklikes.com/post/1950985/devoured-by-sara-tantlinger

 

Book #4:  Necro Files:  Diverse voices  review (not called): http://barklesswagmore.booklikes.com/post/1954686/necro-files-two-decades-of-extreme-horror

 

Book #5:  Night Shoot by David Sodergren:  Slasher Stories

review (called & Updated):  http://barklesswagmore.booklikes.com/post/1956662/night-shoot-by-david-sodergren

 

Book #6:  Ain't Worth Shit: American Horror Story (called & updated)

http://barklesswagmore.booklikes.com/post/1957348/ain-t-worth-a-shit

 

Book #7:  The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein (monsters) 

Review:  http://barklesswagmore.booklikes.com/post/1962863/the-dark-descent-of-elizabeth-frankenstein-by-kiersten-white

 

Book #8:  Remains by Andrew Cull (modern masters of horror 

Review: http://barklesswagmore.booklikes.com/post/1960806/remains-by-andrew-cull

 

Book #9:  Here There Be Monsters by Amelinda Berube (DNF - not counting)

 

Book #9:  Sawkill Girls by Clare Legrand (terror in a small town - read not called - Updated)

http://barklesswagmore.booklikes.com/post/1966926/sawkill-girls-by-clare-legrand

 

Book #10:  Ritual by Steve Stred (candlelight - called & read - updated)

http://barklesswagmore.booklikes.com/post/1964747/ritual-by-steve-stred

 

Book #11:  In The Scrape by James Newman (Fear St Set in 80's - called & read)

http://barklesswagmore.booklikes.com/post/1971037/in-the-scrape-by-james-newman-mark-steensland

 

Book #12:  Class Reunion by Sean McDonough (currently reading - free square! - Bingo!) 

http://barklesswagmore.booklikes.com/post/1974229/the-class-reunion-by-sean-mcdonough

 

Book #13:  Little Paranoias by Sonora Taylor (horror)

 

I'm only going to use 2 markers because I am easily confused. And also lazy.

 

READ AND CALLED:

 

He's baaaack

 

READ BUT NOT CALLED:

 

CALLED BUT NOT READ:

9/1/19: Ghost stories (not on my card)

9/2/19: Genre: Horror

9/3/19 Creepy Crawlies

9/4/19:  Amateur Sleuth (not on my card)

9/5/19:  American Horror Story

9/6/19:  Dystopian Hellscape

9/7/19:  Fear Street

9/8/19:  Black Cat (not on my card) 

9/9/19:  Relics & Curiosities (not on my card)

9/10/19:  A Grim Tale (not on my card)

9/11/19:  Stranger Things

9/12/19:  Creepy Carnivals (not on my card)

9/13/19:  Country House Mystery (not on my card)

 9/14/19: Classic Horror

9/15/19: Supernatural (not on my card)

9/16/19: Psyche (not on my card)

9/17/19:  Darkest London (not on my card)

9/18/19:  Cozy Mystery (not on my card)

9/19/19:  Southern Gothic

9/20/19: Read by Flashlight or Candlelight

9/21/19: Modern Noir (not on my card)

9/22/19: Spellbound (not on my card)

9/23/19: Dark Academia (not on my card) 

9/24/19:  Dead Lands

9/25/19:  Slasher Stories

9/26/19:  In the dark, dark woods (not on my card)

9/27/19: It was a dark and storm night (not on my card)

9/28/19: Paint It Black

9/29/19:  Truly Terrifying

9/30/19: Locked Room Mystery (not on my card)

10/1/19:  THE FREE SQUARE

10/2/19:  Full Moon (not on my card)

10/3/19: King of Fear

10/4/19:  Vampires (not on my card)

10/5/19:  Halloween (not on my card)

10/6/19:  Sleep Hollow (not on my card)

10/7/19:  Diverse Voices 

10/8/19: Demons 

10/9/19: International Woman of Mystery (not on my card)

 10/10/19 Film At 11

10/11/19: Cryptozoologist (not on my card) 

10/12/19:  Stone Cold  Horror

10/13/19: Baker Street (not on my card)

10/14/19: Romantic Suspense (not on my card)

10/15/19 New Release 

10/16/19: Monsters 

10/17/19:  13 (not on my card)

10/18/19: Modern Masters of Horror

10/19/19: Genre: Mystery (not on my card)

10/20/19: Classic Noir (not on my card)

10/21/19: Serial Spree Killer (not on my card)

 10/22/19: Graves or Graveyard (not on my card)

10/23/19:  Aliens (not on my card)

 

The Class Reunion by Sean McDonough

The Class Reunion - Sean McDonough

 

The Class Reunion is a slasher story about a group of former classmates who decide to meet up at their old school during a major snowstorm to drink some booze and catch up. Ummm, that’s probably not the best idea but add in a crazed killer and you have a recipe for some romancing and some slashing fun!

There’s a not too big cast here when the story begins and that’s fine by me. I don’t like keeping track of too many bodies when most of them are just going to get picked off quickly anyway, haha. Vickie is very reluctantly dragged to this impromptu reunion by her best friend Bridget who has fallen in love with one of the bullies who made their lives miserable as young-uns. The only way Vickie is getting through this is with booze and lots of it because most of these people are just as impulsive, insulting and rude as they were back when they were all schoolmates. And some of them deserved to get their faces ripped off, if you ask me.

The character development is done very well and I loved that. It’s a slasher, yeah, but the newly budding relationships are given time too and the people you love to hate are very well described. I always love it when a book takes a little time to delve into the minds and thoughts of its characters before it murders them. I’m not going to say who makes it out alive or tell you too much about the creepy oddball of a murderer who I kept imagining as a deranged Vincent Price in full out Dr. Phibes mode for some reason, just know it’s a good time if you enjoy this kind of story – and how could you not?!

In The Scrape by James Newman & Mark Steensland

In The Scrape - Mark Steensland, James R. Newman

 

In The Scrape is a novella that made me feel as if my giant beast of a cat were sitting atop my chest trying his best to stop my heart from beating the entire time I was reading. Not too many books do that to me but put two sweet kids in peril and that’ll do the trick, I guess! This one is a nail-biter and I was incredibly worried for these kids during the entire story. That’s some kind of knock-out writing. I’m glad I’m finished so I can breathe again.

 

 


Set in the 80’s, Jacob and Matthew are two brothers plotting to run away from their abusive drunkard of a dad and escape to live with their mom who left them all years ago. Their situation hurts the heart. They’re so young and stuck in a situation that seems completely hopeless but they’re plotting and hopeful anyway. I loved that about them. Such brave and smart young kiddos.

As this is a horror novella and there is a schoolyard bully thrown into the mix, you can expect things to go sideways, plans to go awry and terrible things to happen. And they do, thus explaining the sensation of feeling like my chunker of a cat was cutting off my airway. The plot doesn’t travel down the same path as my brain assumed it would (thankfully because my thoughts were 100% bleak) but I still found myself horrified and surprised by the turn of events which I’m not gonna spoil.

This is a story about tenacity, survival, bravery and brotherly love and facing down terrible odds when those charged with protecting you are the ones you just might fear the most. This is really great, heavy stuff. Much different from the previous collaboration I read with author James Newman, Scapegoat, which had an 80’s feel and madness tinged plot but both are excellent stories. 4 ½ stars

 

Call Me By Your Name by Andre Aciman

Call Me by Your Name - André Aciman

This is an intense book that is going to stick with me and likely one I'll listen to more than once. I loved too much of it, too much of it had my emotions all tied up and it just missed being a five (but I bumped it up to a five on GR because it's more than a 4). I'm not writing a review because I was selfish and listened just for me. It's read excellently and emotionally by Armie Hammer who was also fantastic in the film version. It's a painfully honest look at a life-changing relationship between a 17 year old and a man seven years his senior who stays with their family for 6 weeks. It is filled with doubt, longing, ache, desire and anguish. I love emotional reads like this one. I only bumped off half a star because a few parts were a bit draggy, imo.

Now it's back to all horror all the time :)

The Ruin of a Rake by Cat Sebastian

The Ruin of a Rake - Cat Sebastian
Now this is how one does a romance. I nearly fell into deep despair after recently attempting to finish another (not by this author) that had amazing reviews and fell so flat for me that I wanted to weep. I know I sound dramatic but I feared I was over romances forever and that made me feel ugh and burned out. Romances are my palate cleanser between dark and devastating horror novels and without them I'm not sure how long I'd continue to be drawn to books. Any books, if I'm being completely honest. But it wasn't me. It was the book. Phew. Now you'll have to continue reading my shoddy reviews for a bit longer, haha.

I listened to The Ruin of A Rake on audio and I didn't take any notes because I just wanted to enjoy the experience so I have no quotes or nothing much to say other than that if you love a romance between two very different people who make each other better people when they're together I think you're going to fall in love with this story. As I mentioned in my earlier update, I didn't realize this was book #3 in a series when I requested it from Overdrive but don't let that stop you. I never felt out of the loop or info. dumped upon. Knowing this is a mid series book makes me desperately want to search out the others but they are not necessary for you to adore this one.

Five stars for a most excellent story. I can't wait to read more by this author who has restored my faith in the romance genre.
 

 

Currently reading

Paperbacks from Hell: The Twisted History of '70s and '80s Horror Fiction by Grady Hendrix