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.

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.
 

 

Sawkill Girls by Clare Legrand

Sawkill Girls - Claire Legrand

 

 

“Theirs was not a world that was often kind to women.”

I read the Sawkills Girls for the Goodreads Ladies of Horror Fiction discussion.

Sawkill Girls is the story of three teenage girls who come together to face an ancient evil. It’s also about friendships and families and duty and the daily aches and pains and confusion that teenagers face.

Marion, her sister and her mom have relocated to Sawkill to start a new life after the death of the girls’ father. Sawkill is an isolated place inhabited by mostly wealthy people but Marion seems ready to start anew but things go so terrible wrong.

Zoey’s best friend is one of many girls who have disappeared on Sawkill. Zoey isn’t towing the line spouted by the residents who aren’t terribly alarmed by the disappearance. They assume she fell off a cliff and leave it at that. Zoey won’t let things go even when her police officer father insists she must. She snoops and she sniffs out trouble!

Val is the town beauty. The high school Queen Bee whose “smile was made of diamonds and bee stings”. Everyone falls under Val’s spell except for Zoey. Zoey blames Val for the loss of her missing friend.

So those are the girls. How they interact and the things that are uncovered make up the rest of the story and I was hooked for the first 2/3’s. There were some truly creeptastic scenes here, especially those with the devilish little “boy”. The atmosphere is also fantastic. The island breathes dread, drips spiders (ahhh!) and the reader is kept off kilter for quite a bit. I loved that. The writing is engaging and the characters are multi-faceted and, best of all, no one person is terrible and no one person is perfect. I loved that too. The only thing that I didn’t love was the insta-love relationship between two of the characters that seemed to have no believable build-up beforehand. I get it. They’re teens and lust happens but this didn’t feel real. Give us a little build-up first! There wasn’t any attraction noted before the big kiss. That always bugs me and feels like a cheat.

Somewhere around the 2/3 mark things started to drag for me. I’m guessing it’s because the action took over and I’m not a huge action fan so this is on me and my personal preferences. I’d easily recommend it to someone looking for a young adult horror novel with well-drawn characters. 

Ritual by Steve Stred

Ritual - Steve Stred

 

I read this one by the soft light of a Himalayan salt lamp. I hope that counts! You can see how dark the room was in my photo below.

 

Ritual is a dark little tale about a pretty normal guy named Brad. Brad has a routine and he sticks to it. He reads the Bible, buys food and sells over-priced crap for a call center. He seems perfectly okay with his dull routine because he knows he has a bigger purpose in life. He also spends most evenings getting sexually abused and flagellated by “Father” as well as doing a little self-flagellation of his own and he doesn’t seem to mind that very much either.

Yeah, I know, things just got a little weird. You didn’t think this story would be about a boring dude and his tedious routine, did you?

Lately Brad is a little stressed because he is preparing for his big day and is tasked with getting everything just right. There is no room for screw-ups. Brad, you see, is The Chosen One in the little cult he belongs to and he must guide them all into the Black Heavens. Yep, you read that right. The Black Heavens!

This was a twisted tale that gets increasingly revolting the more pages you read so make sure you read it all, haha. Ritual is more about the build-up to what is about to happen and it’s short so there isn’t a lot of time spent character building. There’s a short flashback somewhere in the middle to help explain things that felt a wee bit out of place for me but that’s a minor thing. The story is very dark and very gory and I think you horror fans will have fun with it and it might have you giving the side-eye to that boring guy at work.

 

DNF - Here There Are Monsters by Amelinda Berube

Here There Are Monsters - Amelinda Bérubé

I am going to DNF this one after reading the first section (roughly 100 or so pages). The cover is lovely. Breathtakingly creepy. But it's the contents that count. Unfortunately, I was attempting to read this novel at the same time I was reading Sawkill Girls by Claire Legrand for the Ladies of Horror Fiction Goodreads Group and the two have too much in common but one was more engaging. And it wasn't this one.

The stories are both focused on sisters, creepy woods and missing girl(s) and they started to meld together in my brain which was a little troublesome and it slowed me way down when I picked up either book. Here There Are Monsters didn't grab me hard enough to keep me and I did not like either of the two sisters, Skye was an angry and resentful and selfish teen and her sister came across as much younger than she was supposed to be and she was strange in a not-so-great way. The parents were also jerks blaming one sister for not doing their jobs for them when one of them goes missing. So, yeah, the people here aren't people I really want to share too much headspace with. It was also missing the creep factor for me. I may pick this back up again after I take a breather. Or I may not. So no stars from me. 

The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein by Kiersten White

The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein - Kiersten White

 

I am on such a roll of 4 and 5 star reads and I hope this momentum keeps up! I loved this story SO much. When I read Frankenstein on audio a little while back (you can see my not so glowing review here), I was continually surprised and annoyed by Victor Frankenstein and his man-baby ways. He was so brilliant yet also so pathetic and ill equipped to handle disappointment and frustration. How could any woman seriously fall in love with such a silly fool? His reactions were over the top and felt ridiculous to me but after reading this book it all begins to make a lot more sense. This is the story of Elizabeth Frankenstein, the one and only person Victor ever loved, and it is spectacular.

Elizabeth was taken away from an abusive situation by the Frankenstein’s to befriend their son Victor who had maybe done something terrible to a deceased sibling. It is never talked about but it’s easy to read between the lines here. Victor was never quite right, even as a child. When he and Elizabeth meet she instantly has his number and is just as wily (maybe more so) and brilliant as Victor. She realizes right away that if she doesn’t befriend Victor and make him like her she’ll be tossed back out like garbage and forced to fend for herself and suffer further abuse. She spends her childhood managing his moods and his penchant for odd behavior and she is the only one with the ability to calm and distract him from his worst instincts. They quickly become inseparable. She loves him and he loves her but it’s a strange co-dependent sort of love. And it fascinated me.

“I had no tiny fragile hearts to give him as an offering. Only my own.”

I don’t want to give anything away. I’ll only say that if you read Frankenstein and felt a little bit of what I did for Victor (annoyed, frustrated maybe a wee bit crazed) I think you are going to enjoy reading Elizabeth’s story. Her love for Victor is complicated and 100% understandable and the book pulls no punches with its darkness and its ruthlessness and its heartbreaking and devastating turns and it stays very true to the source material from what I can remember. It’s a brilliant story of survival and self-preservation and I can’t recommend it highly enough.

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