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.

Stay Sexy & Don't Get Murdered

Stay Sexy & Don't Get Murdered - Karen Kilgariff, Georgia Hardstark

I HIGHLY recommend you listen to the audiobook version of this book because it is narrated by the writers and you'll miss a lot of the emotion in the words if you don't hear them tell it. I also suggest that you only pick it up only if you are a fan of the My Favorite Murder podcast - otherwise you might not get what it is all about and you'll probably be very disappointed and will be left scratching your head at the title. It's not a guidebook instructing you how to "Stay Sexy & Don't Murdered" (that's the tagline of the true-crime comedy show), it's a book about the podcasters very personal, very intimate struggles with family, mental health and their careers. As a fan of the show, I found it both interesting, painful and funny - just like the weekly podcast.

 

 

Recommended to fans of the podcast only, especially if you're super nosy like myself

Terminal by Michaelbrent Collins

Terminal - Michaelbrent Collings

I’ve read a few books by author Michaelbrent Collings and they have all been solid horror stories as well as excellent character studies and as reader who loves a good character driven story, I really appreciate the deep dive into their psyches. I like knowing what makes people tick because I am nosy and also because so many authors don’t do it. They allow the action to take over the entire show and that’s when they usually lose me. If you’re the same type of reader, you should check out this guy’s work. 

Several people awaiting a bus find themselves trapped within the bus terminal when a creepy fog rolls in. The fog brings with it death and dire warnings “if you leave, you die” and they soon realize via a text message that they’re all trapped inside of some sort of sadistic game, trick, or alien invasion and that only one of them will survive. If they don’t choose a survivor within the specified time frame they’re all going to die!

So guess what happens when you put a gang member, a junkie, a lazy good-for-nothing jerky security officer, a drug dealer, a Mary Kay pusher and a few decent people (with secrets – yes, that is my catnip and there are plenty of them here) under intense pressure like this? TERRIBLE THINGS, bloody things, messy and gory things, heehee! The intense situation brings out the best and the worst in these people and it expertly shows all of the intricate facets that make them both awful and human. And, also, what the heck is out there lurking in the fog?!

Terminal is a weird, sinister story that kept me guessing and, even though I’ve read probably too many horror stories for most sane people, I did not figure out that ending and I appreciated that. There were plenty of clues but I apparently missed them all until the reveal and then I was all “ahh, you dummy it was all there right in front of you!” I’d recommend it to anyone who enjoys getting to know a cast of characters and watching them get picked off in terrible ways, one by one!

Essential Titles for Moonlight

Geek Love - Katherine Dunn The Secret Life of Souls: A Novel - Lucky McKee, Jack Ketchum Deerskin - Robin McKinley The Listener - Robert R. McCammon

This post is in response to Moonlight Reader's Call for essential reads.

 

Geek Love - It's a timeless story about avarice, ego, innocence lost and horrible parenting. 

 

The Secret Life of Souls - another timeless story about love, devotion and horrible parenting.

 

Deerskin - yet another timeless story about perseverance, transformation and strength in the face of horror and horrible parenting (lol).

 

The Listener - my final timeless (my word of the day) choice about humanity and the lack thereof wrapped inside a thrilling story. 

 

All essential reading, IMO that I feel will stand the test of time. 

Little Darlings by Melanie Golding

Little Darlings - Melanie Golding

This book was so unexpectedly creepy! I tend to put any thriller and secret twist looking book that I find available on Overdrive on hold and then wait in line for weeks and weeks and by the time my turn comes around I have no idea what the thing is about. This is often the best thing to do with “twisty” books so wasn’t I surprised in the best way imaginable when I started this one and realized it was a creepy, modern day dark fairytale with horror underpinnings! I LOVED it from sinister beginning to sinister end.

 

The story starts off with the arrival of the Little Darlings. Lauren gives birth to two beautiful identical twin boys. The delivery is exhausting and once they arrive she feels a little twinge of guilt because she isn’t drowning in overwhelming feelings of love for them - this fleeting thought causes her much grief and anxiety later on. Lauren is tired, she’s sore, her belly is mushy and she feels sad and then a bedraggled woman shows up in the hospital and whispers strange things and demands she hand over one of the boys as “justice done” or she'll take them both and replace them with the dirty shape-shifting creatures she's holding in a filthy basket! Lauren calls the police but they convince her that she imagined it all. Her husband isn’t exactly the caregiver type, so as the days pass she doesn’t begin to feel any better and struggles to simply get out of bed. She has fallen in love with her little boys though and she will do anything to protect them. . .

 

I don’t want to spoil the story so I’ll only say that it may or may not be about changelings, old fables and that it gave me a major The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman vibe only re-imagined for modern times. There is some scary shit happening in this story! The atmosphere and characters are crafted with care. You’ll feel for Lauren and for police officer Jo Harper who doggedly pursues the case for Lauren and does some questionable things because she has a gut feeling and she goes with it no matter the risk to her own career. I loved that her character was so multi-faceted and that she wasn’t just plunked down into the story to get things done.

 

If you like stories with a dark fairy feel and horror-ish undertones, I cannot recommend this addictive and creeptastic book highly enough! It is the best of the best, in my opinion. All the stars.

Call Me Evie by J.P Pomare

Call Me Evie - J.P. Pomare

“We all develop our own little movements and habits to keep the ugly parts hidden.”

 

This is a book where all of the characters appear to be unreliable narrators. I mean, seriously, every last one of them. They are all shady and untrustworthy at some moment in time. If this doesn’t bother you, and it doesn’t always bother me, you may love this but ONLY if you don’t mind being thrown smack into the middle of a story and being confused for nearly all of it. That’s the part that I didn’t like too much. It hurt my brain and it was very difficult to get to know and understand the characters and even harder to emphasize with them or even dislike them because you never knew what was real and what wasn’t. After a bit of this, I became bored. This might be better on a reread when my brain is ready for it but this time around I found myself being pulled away and having to rewind the audio on several occasions.

 

The story is told in two sections. The NOW and the BEFORE. Many stories are told in this format but there was something about this one that left me feeling completely out of the loop. I suppose that was the point but it didn’t work for me this time. The BEFORE is filled with some mostly minor teen drama and the AFTER is about a teen who may or may not be a captive of a man named “Jim” or at the very least is being held somewhat against her will, being force fed drugs and is on the lam and hiding after a terrible deed was done. Maybe?!  Maybe not! Obviously things happened in the time between the before and the after but they are doled out super slowly throughout the course of the book. If you have patience all will be revealed. I had the patience, believe it or not, but some of the reveals weren’t so great. Or maybe I’m just not so great at reading books written like this. Either way it is getting two and a half stars from me. You may enjoy it more than I did. Most people seem to. I felt completely off-kilter during the entire thing and I didn’t like that feeling but that’s just me and the way I am. Also, a dog is put in peril due to someone’s complete stupidity and I didn’t like that at all. Be warned. I wish I had been warned. Please warn me next time, friends.

The Winter People by Jennifer McMahon

The Winter People - Jennifer McMahon

I’m going to say this right up front even though I know people will yell at me for it but that is nothing new. I read this book for the Ladies of Horror Fiction Community Readalong while I was doing a re-listen of Pet Sematary and yes, I now realize that this was a very dumb idea indeed and I do NOT recommend doing so to any of you because both books have some very similar themes. “Sometimes, dead is bettah" and that’s all I’ll say about that. I know it’s never a good idea to compare one writers work to another but in this case it was impossible not to do so as I was reading them both at the same time and it is 100% my own damn fault. 

The King book will destroy you emotionally. It does grief so exquisitely that it breaks your heart as if the grief were your own. It takes its time making you feel it all deep within every one of your bones and it remains hyper focused on fleshing out all of the awful/terrible/heartbreaking feelings as Louis Creed is faced down with nothing but terrible choices. The Winter People doesn’t give itself enough time to ponder the grief of the situations its characters face because it throws in so much other. Much of the other was unnecessary to the core story, if you ask me, and I felt that it took away from the compelling storyline set in the past. But this is just my opinion, of course, and you are getting what you paid for here. I know people love this book. Please don’t come at me because I didn’t fall madly in love. I wanted to but sometimes love is elusive.

This is a haunting story of grief and emotional turmoil and there is also a mystery or two or three. There is a timeline based in 1908 and a timeline set in the current day. As I said up there somewhere, my favorite timeline was the one set in the past. I had so many questions and felt an amazing sense of time and place and I needed to know all the answers. It was atmospheric and eerie as hell and gripped me right away. Honestly, I never wanted to leave 1908. Unfortunately, I didn’t feel the same about the story or the characters in the present day. They weren’t nearly as compelling or interesting and they only seemed to add confusion to the story. Or maybe it’s just my faulty brain.

At any rate, this book is a difficult one to review which is why I’ve put it off for several weeks now. The writing in the beginning was five star material but somewhere after the first quarter things got too bogged down and it began to hurt my brain. There is a big reveal in the end that simply didn’t ring true to me because one character wasn’t fleshed out enough for me to buy into the situation – and that’s all I can say about that. There’s also another decision made near the end that left me . . . frustrated. Again, that one comes down to characterization. Had the plot not been quite so over-stuffed there may have been more space to explore the characters and understand some of their decisions. 

I can say this book kept me guessing and it kept me reading and the early parts were spectacular so I’m giving it a 3 for those reasons. 

I will leave you with my favorite creepy quote:

“I couldn’t take my eyes off the casket. Just the right size for a girl like me.”

The Stranger Inside by Laura Benedict

The Stranger Inside  - Laura Benedict

The Stranger Inside has a weird and highly unlikely premise but I am not an attorney or a police officer so who am I to say, maybe this shit really happens? Here’s the scene: Kimber comes home from a retreat and discovers she cannot get into her own damn home. Someone has changed the locks and the squatter claims he has a lease that Kimber signed and basically makes her appear like she’s lost all of her marbles, then he whispers something sinister in her ear. The police won’t help her and her elderly neighbor friend claims that she saw her let the guy in so she is pretty much screwed. She leaves and goes to stay with her only other friend and calls up her ex (an attorney she dumped) to help her out of this oddly unrealistic bind. Gabriel AKA the Ex Who Still Loves Her For Some Bizarre Reason eagerly agrees even though their break-up was rough on him. A murder may or may not happen.

 

Kimber plots and does her own investigating and attempts to get back into her home all the while learning more about the man inside her house. The man who is probably wearing her underwear at this point (ahhh). Her digging leads to the eventual discovery of many secrets but it takes a while to get there. First there are reveals about Kimber’s guilty past, told in flashbacks in a separate timeline, her shady relationships (shady on her end because she is an AWFUL and terrible person) and a bunch of other things that I’m not going to reveal.

 

I basically threw my brain out the window and went with the flow after that wild setup. I’d advise you to do the same here. The twists and turns defy all logic and the emotional entanglements are a tad over the top but it’s never, ever a boring read. I have to give it that.

 

Most of my notes about this story are about Kimber and are not something I’d like to expose the rest of you to. Kimber is one of the most unlikable main characters I have read in a good long while. You can’t get on her side because she is such an AWFUL person in both timelines. The more I learned about her, the less I liked about her. Her only redeeming quality to me was her kindness to a sad little dog, everything else about her was selfish and just full of ugh. But I can’t lie, I found her horribleness fascinating. What made her this way? I had to know and I had to keep reading!

 

In the end I was left feeling a wee bit disappointed with some of the revelations but the telling of the story was compelling and it grabbed me even if I wanted Kimber to sit on a porcupine for the rest of her life when I turned the last page.

Teeth by Kelli Owen

Teeth - Kelli Owen

“Just like all living things, we are rotting from the inside from the moment we’re born.”

Teeth isn’t a typical vampire book and I’m okay with that because I’ve read a LOT of vampire novels in my reading life and most of them bore me at this point. Those vampires are either sexy whiny monsters or they are ugly whiny monsters and there usually isn’t a helluva lot of room left for anything in-between.

In Teeth, vampirism is treated like a condition because it is one. People afflicted are called Lamian’s and it strikes when a person is a teen and their pointy teeth come in (of course, at the WORST possible time because being a teen isn’t bad enough!). They can still go out in the daylight, they do not need to be bloodthirsty savages and they aren’t instantly made glamorous and gorgeous by that tired old vampire “curse”. "I am immortal and forever beautiful and nobody will ever love me more than I love my loathsome self. Boo-hoo-hoo"Anyhow, those afflicted basically have to take supplements to survive but a segment of society is suspicious (at best) and prejudiced (at worse). That’s why many are terrified of coming out to the public when their Lamian genes start kicking in and who can blame them? People can be terrible creatures.

I enjoyed this story a lot because it took an old thing and made it into a new different thing. The story follows several teens as their teeth start erupting from their gums. They struggle with the alienation of people they thought were their friends and, in some cases, their parents. There’s also a deviant running about who is on a grisly murderous spree and he stars in some super gross scenes which were gloriously cringy and wonderful. If you are squeamish, read it anyway, haha.

The writer sets up an intriguing world here and if she ever chooses to revisit it, I’ll definitely be there to read more.

Our Frail Disordered Lives by Mary M. Schmidt

Our Frail Disordered Lives - Mary M. Schmidt

I requested this title from Netgalley thinking it was a horror novel because it was in the horror category. I must be more careful about hitting that request button without doing a little research first.

 

This book is a comedy about a demon gone rogue because his boss Satan is an unappreciative pain in the bum. Satan sends all of his bounty hunters out to drag the demon’s sorry butt back to Hell. But this is not a horror novel. At least not the first 25%. It is written in the sarcastic spirit of Christopher Moore and Clive Barker’s Mister B. Gone which is a book that did not get along with me and I normally adore Barker so you can see how this going to go, can’t you?

 

Not well, if you were wondering.

 

I gave up on this book at the 25% mark not because it wasn’t the horror novel I was expecting (so don’t rag on me about that) but because the characters were all loathsome unlikable creatures and I wasn’t in any kind of mood to deal with them. I am also very particular about my humor. This was vaguely amusing but wasn’t making me laugh or snicker or any of those things it should’ve been doing. It was mostly frustrating me because it is written in the “tell don’t show” mode, the plot was extremely disjointed, the ARC had all kinds of pesky formatting errors and it was not keeping my attention no matter how hard I tried. I think a good pass through an editor could easily fix those things but as is, I couldn’t find the will to continue.

 

Thank you Netgalley for sending me the ARC. I wish it could’ve been a five star read for me but you can’t win them all. I'm sure there are many out here that will dig the humor but unfortunately I'm not one of them.

Second Lives by P.D. Cacek

Second Lives - P.D. Cacek

Second Lives has an amazingly creepy cover and an intriguing blurb and when I sat down with it I knew it was going to be an emotionally intense read. The plot is about a group of four people who die, after all, but I wasn’t expecting the heavy blanket of sadness that was dropped over my head to stay there until almost the very last page.

Be warned if you’re feeling blue because this one may need to wait a bit but if you’re feeling too chipper give it a go but make sure you have no distractions and big chunk of time and maybe a notebook . . .

This book starts out telling the backstories of eight characters and five different timelines chapter by chapter. I’ve seen some people say they read like short stories and they do but they do eventually connect but it takes a while before that happens. There is a lot to absorb in the first half or so of the book. I took notes to keep everybody straight because I knew my faulty brain would never be able to keep up and I did find myself referring back to my notes to remind myself who was who. After the first half (or so) it was easy going and I no longer needed them but without them I would’ve been tripped up a time or ten.

The characterization here is incredible and the author really excels at breathing life into all of her people. I found it an easy read for that reason but it left me feeling blue the entire week of reading. It’s incredibly sad and lacks any sort of break from all of the gloom. Each situation is pretty terrible and heartrending for everyone involved.

This one is hard to review and even more difficult to rate. I’m going to settle on a three. It’s not a book I’d ever willingly read again because I found it incredibly depressing but it’s well written and fans of fantasy and reincarnation-type novels might feel differently.

*Thank you Flame Tree Press for the advanced readers copy!

 

I am speechless on this one!

Triple Axe by Scott Cole

Triple Axe - Scott Cole

Triple Axe is an amusing little serial killer tale written for those of us with warped minds. This isn’t a story about an investigator hot on the case and hellbent on finding the murderer. Nope, it’s not that at all. In this case, the serial killer is targeting porn actresses and the police just don’t give a crap about them. The woman are insulted when reporting their story and the police refuse to take them seriously. It is extremely infuriating. 

So the ladies, tired of being targets of a cowardly murderous freak, take it upon themselves to do something about it. It may involve axes and nudity and glorious, raging revenge. 

This story is so much fun. I really had a blast reading it. I know that probably sounds terribly weird but it’s funny, despite all of the murder and mayhem. It moves fast and the characters are well written, tough, resilient and likable. It wasn’t over the top gross but there’s blood, a little gore and a lot of sex, boobs and body fluids splashing the pages. If you’re up for this type of insanity, I highly recommend TRIPLE AXE to all of you kindred souls!

I also love the fact that the author dedicated it to all the dirty birds, lol, and I can’t wait to read more of his writing.

*I received a copy of this book from the author. It’s a good thing I liked it but even if I didn’t, I’d still tell you the honest truth!

 

A Map Of The Dark by Karen Ellis

A Map of the Dark - Karen Ellis

This is a classic three star read for me. It's a thriller about a missing teenager and Elsa, the FBI agent who is assigned to the case. It was decent, it wasn't boring but it also wasn't super compelling. I guessed one turn of events early on and that made me sad and tells me either the plotting could've been better OR I've finally reached the point where I've read enough of these that I can now figure things out (that is probably not the case, haha). There was a nifty dark twist at the end that I hadn't thought of so that was fun. The characters were all a bit flawed which always makes a read far more interesting if you're asking me BUT the main character has major issues with her past and those issues and thoughts and forays into the past seemed to take up more page space than the main story which made the main mystery seem a little like an afterthought at times.

This is book 1 of a series and I will dig into book #2 if I'm able to find a copy at my library as I did this one. Maybe now that we know all of Elsa's backstory the next one can actually focus on the mystery.

 

I did not read the blurb which is my preferred method of doing things with audios I grab from Overdrive. These are my thoughts going in blind which is the way I think you should do it too!

We Are Wormwood by Autumn Christian

We are Wormwood - Autumn Christian

“When I was fourteen years old the cats in the neighborhood started losing their eyes” 

Eeeeeh! How’s that for a teaser? We Are Wormwood isn’t a straightforward kind of read and it might not be a book that everyone will love equally so know what you’re getting into. It’s dreamy, the narrator and the world around her are basically 100% unreliable and the story and the prose are exquisitely poetic. I love this type of writing when I’m in a mood to sit down and be transported somewhere weird and unpredictable. If you’re like this as well, you’ll want to read it when you have some time to fall into its world. 

 



A book like this is difficult to review because there is a very fine line between saying just enough and saying a little too much and spoiling its surprises. Basically it’s about a young girl named Lily and her strange and dark coming of age journey as she lives off and on with her schizophrenic mother and experiments with drugs. There are some strange sights to behold and Lily spends the majority of the story stumbling through life in a hazy otherworldly hallucinatory state. The reader and Lily are never quite sure what is real and what isn’t. It’s about fear and trauma and it reads like a nightmare. At times lucid, mostly not, the imagery and savagery and monsters on her back are all vivid, dirty and create scenes of disgusting beauty. I loved this book about a young girl growing up with madness nipping at her heels. 

I also enjoyed all of the dark imagery within these pages and can’t wait to find some time to sit down with more from this author.

“Once you invade someone’s dreams you’re a part of them forever. For the rest of their life they’ll be spitting out little pieces of you.”

*I was given an e-Arc by the author. This in no way alters my thoughts on the story.

Dracul by Dacre Stoker & J.D. Barker

Dracul - Clive Barker, Dacre Stoker

This is the prequel to Dracula and it was inspired by notes and other tidbits Stoker left behind. I wasn’t sure what to expect and went in blind to what the actual storyline was about which, if you ask me, is often the best way to go into a book. That way it’s all a surprise. It could be a pleasant surprise or a dreadful one depending on the book. This one was a bit of both, haha (but dreadful in the best of ways). The Horror Aficionados group read this together. Click here to read everyone’s thoughts.

 

I’ll tell you a little but not too much about the plot because I think you should all go in blind too and allow the tale to unfold. Dracul tells the story of a young Bram Stoker and his siblings. Set in the 1800’s when Bram is an ill little boy being cared for “Nana” Ellen because his mom is overwhelmed. Nana Ellen was hired without anyone checking into her background. And you know that means something weird is bound to happen, right? Cue the creepy music because the creepy is coming and once it starts it doesn’t let up!

 

After a strange event occurs, Bram and Matilda start to snooping. And I’m just going to interrupt my review here to say that I adored Bram’s sister Matilda. It would’ve been amazing if the story had been told mostly from her POV because she is feisty and smart and nosey as hell and she asks all the best questions. But it’s told from several POV’s and that’s ok too because it’s a good story. Anyhow, the snooping of course leads to more snooping and the discovery of many odd things. None of which I am going to disclose.


With that said, if you’ve read Dracula or seen any vampire film, you’ll likely have an inkling and some insight into what’s going on here but it’s the telling that is all the fun. It’s descriptive and gruesome and the atmosphere is done just right. It digs right down into the dirt and worms and throws you in there, setting up some truly squirmy scenes that will crawl into your brain and settle in – maybe permanently. I love it when a book is able to do that to me.


I listened to Dracul as an unabridged audiobook with a host of different narrators and instead of distracting me as this sort of thing sometimes does, the six (I think there were six but am too lazy to look it up) narrators helped me quickly place who was speaking and let me know which timeline we were currently in. The tale does skip around in time and I am the type who is easily confused but not so in this case. I fell into this story from the very beginning and only wish I could’ve listened to it all in one sitting but it’s over 16 hours long! Even I can’t hide from life that long no matter how hard I might try because they always find me.


And my favorite quote comes from Matilda (of course!):


“If you won’t dig it up I will.”


Read it. I don’t think you will be disappointed.

 

I purchased this audio from Audible.com. All thoughts are my own.

This guy is charging $35.00 for book reviews!

THIRTY-FIVE DOLLARS!

 

He then posts them to Amazon (or Ama-zon & Good-reads). This is against TOS, correct? At any rate, he has been reported.

 

Are people desperate enough to pay $35.00 for one terribly written five star book review?

 

As a bonus, he offers additional services to bump your book up to perfection if he finds errors. For an added fee, of course.

 

https://www.wordrefiner.com/review-your-book.html

 

https://www.amazon.com/gp/profile/amzn1.account.AG37NF3MYU5R6KD42BEWOGJU5PSA/ref=cm_cr_dp_d_gw_tr?ie=UTF8

 

https://twitter.com/wordrefiner

 

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My reviews were pulled last year for NO reason (they're back after much yelling on my end) and people like this can blatantly disregard TOS. The mind boggles.

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