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.

Halloween Bingo 2018: Supernatural Square

The Mouth of the Dark - Tim Waggoner

Supernatural: mystery, suspense or horror books which include elements that defy current understanding of the natural world, including magic, witchcraft and/or crypto-zoological aspects

 

 

 

I'm reading this one with a group of horror friends on Twitter and am going to use it for my supernatural square because this thing is so WEIRD! There are jars that contain essences of dead lovers, sex toys that get a little too rowdy, and so many things that defy the natural world. Dog-eaters, slug-like monsters that, ugh, I can't even say it, things with gray feet and talon like toes and so much more. This book is so crazy that I have no idea how it will end. 

Drawing Blood by Poppy Z. Brite

Drawing Blood - Poppy Z. Brite, Matt Godfrey

I always refer to this book as my second most favorite book in the world (Geek Love by Katherine Dunn will always be my #1) but I haven’t read it since it was first released back in 1993 so I approached this recent audio release with equal amounts of joy and dread. Would it still be my almost favorite? Would I find giant flaws and pick it all to hell? Would I tarnish all of those memories of book perfection by reading it now when I’m all jaded and crabby(er)?

Everything I remembered loving about Drawing Blood was still here. Granted those memories were a little fuzzy around the edges but the impressions and the emotions felt left a mark on me and once I started listening, I was immediately transfixed and reminded of all the reasons why I held this book so close to my heart. It’s full of tragedy, dark romance, and real life horrors as well as some out there, woo-woo ones. If you like those things along with a well-drawn sense of place, gorgeously lush writing, flawed characters and you don’t mind explicit sex between two men (and lots and lots of it) you should give this a listen. Or a read. Or maybe both.

This is one of Brite’s (now Billy Martin) earlier works and it has all of the gothic trappings of that era. The characters have sharp edges, are ethereally young and beautiful, the sex is explicit and often and it’s always earthy and descriptive, the characters that populate this world drink and drug copiously, fall in love quickly and deeply as young lovers tend to do and music always plays a huge part in their lives. I’d say this tale is about 50% haunted house/dealing with your past shit and 50% dark and dangerous love story and it’s all beautifully gory and messy. 

Trevor is a young artist who returns to his hometown to face down the demons of his past and his demons are bad ones. Zach is a hacker on the run who lands in Missing Mile. Both have hellish pasts and when they meet everything clicks and feels right. Yes, folks, it is the dreaded insta-love in full bloom. And, yes, I am a big huge hypocrite because I typically knock off points for insta-love because it drives me crazy but in this case I JUST DIDN’T CARE. I loved them both too much to care. They don’t even meet until the book is at least a third of the way through (maybe more) but by then I knew them so well that when they finally meet it was a relief. They were both such broken souls when apart and together they just fit. They talked, they fought, they lived a lifetime of dysfunction in a few days and I will make no more excuses because, yeah, it’s insta-love and it was glorious and nothing anybody says will ever change my mind. 

It’s such an intoxicating read. The love story, the setting, the darkness. All of it. Brite assaults the senses with her prose and everything comes alive right down to the scents and tastes - no matter how gross! This isn’t a book for everyone and I’m not here to pretend that it is but if any of this sounds appealing to you, grab a copy and read that sucker until your eyeballs dry up. I don’t think you’ll regret it. 

If you’re an audio fan, I also highly recommend giving it a listen. Matt Godfrey’s narration is terrific. He creates distinctive voices for the characters. Zach’s voice is deeper and has just the slightest Cajun-esque accent to fit him and where he’s been, while Trevor comes off as more innocent/wide-eyed. How you express that with voice is way beyond me but Godfrey manages to do it. There are quite a few secondary characters that he voices very well too. 

Now I'm off to listen all over again :)

When Dimple Met Rishi Audio Review

When Dimple Met Rishi - Vikas Adam, Sandhya Menon, Sneha Mathan

I listened to this book on audio hoping for a pick-me-up because I’ve been reading a steady diet of darkness this summer and desperately needed a mini-break. This book was the perfect choice.

It’s charming from beginning to end and this is coming from someone who is typically annoyed by young adult fiction. It’s about a young lady named Dimple whose traditional parents expect her to marry a young man of their choosing, the “Ideal Indian Husband.” Unfortunately for them, Dimple has other plans. She’s grown up in the USA and she doesn’t want to abide by family traditions. She wants to go to college to learn, not simply to meet a suitable man. She isn’t ready to settle down and live a boring life. She wants to go to Insomnia-con and win the top prize and when her parents agree she’s pretty damn stunned.

Rishi is a young man who is quite the opposite. He feels a pressing need to do exactly what his parents ask of him because his younger brother is a flake. He’s the oldest son and feels he must become an engineer and leave his artistic passions behind, marry the woman his parents have chosen, have children and take care of his parents in their old age. He is such a good boy that it hurts my heart! He heads to Insomnia-con thinking he’s going to meet his new wife.

And it goes oh-so-hilariously-badly.

That’s all I’m saying. This is a romance. A reluctant one and that was what was so great about it. Dimple has no room in her life for a boy – until she does. It’s sweet and charming and funny and a little maddening and I loved it. I truly loved it all. Well, maybe not that stupid, pointless talent show thing but I adored the bits when Dimple was a bit of a jerk. She felt real and independent and she had this simmering anger that came out in the worst of ways and it all felt so genuine. 

There are dual narrators for this book. Don’t ask me why. It wasn’t necessary and it was jarring until I got used to it. For the first 45 minutes or so, I was thinking, “Wait, no this is not Rishi speaking! Who is this guy? This is not Dimple. Where’d she go?” If the female narrator had been able to read the entire book, this would’ve been a five star production. As is? It’s only a four.

Despite my nitpickery, this book really is adorable. It's thoughtful and sweet and the two main characters are so lovely together that you can’t help but wish them the best. This was such a nice breather of a book and was so refreshing and helped me reset my head and my mood. Now I’m ready to get back to the horror!

The Nightmare Room Audiobook Review

The Nightmare Room - Chris Sorensen

I liked this book so much I read it twice! This time around I listened to the unabridged audiobook read by the author who just so happens to be a professional narrator himself. Since he's a pro and the material is his, his voice hits all the right notes. He's engaging, pleasant and unnervingly menacing when he needs to be and I recommend it highly! 4 1/2 Stars 

Here's my review of the story:

The Nightmare Room lives up to its title. It is a slowly building creepfest fueled by nightmares for the first half then picks up speed in its later half.

Peter and Hannah need a new start after a devastating loss and move back to Peter’s hometown to help with his ailing parents and to heal themselves. They move into a property that Peter’s dad purchased that is huge, old and in disrepair. Hannah loves the idea of the old home but Peter’s not so sure. 

"Hannah had gotten it wrong. This was not the sort of house featured on her home improvement show; this was every house in every horror movie he’d ever seen."

Despite his misgivings, Peter, who is an audiobook narrator, sets up his studio in the dark, dank basement and soon realizes that he may not be alone down there! Is it real or is he starting to lose his marbles?

I just loved some of the descriptions of the house. It makes me long for an old haunted house of my own.

". . . he was facing a narrow, grey door. A basement door. His vision had steadied and the room no longer moved about him. But the door… It’s breathing."

This is a decent little horror tale that has a lot of layers that reach far beyond the haunted house trappings. It deals with aging, grief and past regrets that come back to haunt. The main characters come across as real and imperfect and as a reader who needs decent characterization I really appreciated this. I did want to learn more about Peter’s birth mother because I’m nosy and have so many questions but perhaps that will happen in a prequel or sequel? I can only hope

Darktown by Thomas Mullen

Darktown: A Novel - Thomas Mullen

I won this book in a Goodreads Giveaway a very long time ago. I kind of wish I had read it a few years ago when things in the US weren’t quite so openly depressing but alas I read it now and it hurt my heart so much.

 

Dark Town is a mystery and an unflinching look at race relations in the not so long ago past. Even worse, much of it is depressingly still very relevant today. It takes place in the 1940’s when segregation and racism was on full awful display. And if today’s news gets you down, reading this book right now sure won’t help your state of mind. There is so much prejudice and hatefulness in this story that it will make you angry and sad. This is not a book you want to pick up thinking you’ll escape into.

 

A murder occurs and the author delves deep into everyone involved in the situation. What is uncovered is a whole lot of cover ups, corruption, and other assorted ugliness. It’s very well written and the descriptive language is so very excellent.

 

"A harsh word would knock him over"& "He hit the door like it owed him money."

 

You should definitely read it if you enjoy a good gritty historical murder mystery. But I’m warning you, it’s probably going to make your blood boil.

It's almost time to begin my Friday Reading :)

Drawing Blood - Poppy Z. Brite The Nightcrawler - Mick Ridgewell

My Tweet does not feel like embedding correctly today. But this is what I'm reading.

Unidentified by Michael McBride Audio Review

Unidentified - Michael McBride, Joe Hempel

This is a brief little novella that runs a little over 2 hours on audio. It’s narrated by one of my favorite narrators, Joe Hempel, who helps the story leap off the pages. He also never grates on my last nerve like some narrators do. His pace is on the slower side and it draws you into the chilling atmosphere of the story and his performance of the characters sounds natural. If you like audio and scary tales, this is a really good one. 

40 years ago a group of teens stumbled across something terrible in the aftermath of crop circles, missing teens and animal mutilations. They woke without memories of the events that cost them a friend but now that another child has gone missing and one of them writes a chilling email saying only “I remember everything”, they reunite to start digging into the past and end whatever it is from tormenting their hometown once and for all. 

Since this is such a short story I don’t have a lot to say about it. It left me guessing and I loved the bleak threads running throughout it and if you listen to the author notes at the end, and you should, you might be a little terrified of the sky!

 

95% Complete

The Grip of It: A Novel - Jac Jemc

This wasn't an easy book to read but I'm glad I pushed through. I need to know how it ends but worked called. 

 

Here's a pic of my morning reading ritual with my sweet, cuddly, slightly insane boy Patrick.

 

DNF

Dandelion Wine - Ray Bradbury

This story is beautifully written but after struggling through 50+ pages I am calling it a day. It's not quite what I was expecting and seems to be a series of vignettes and loosely attached memories about summertime. Some of the vignettes were amusing but not amusing enough to hold my attention at this particular moment in time. I may try again when my mind isn't quite so cluttered. Right now I'm craving something darker.

Jar of Hearts by Jennifer Hillier

Jar of Hearts - Jennifer Hillier

This book is a few different things and miraculously I loved them all. It’s a mystery, it’s an acclimating to prison life tale, and it’s a love story gone about as wrong as a love story can go! It’s dark and it’s addictive and it’s getting all the stars I have to give.

 

Georgina, Angela and Kaiser (Kai) were the best of friends in high school but when Georgina starts seeing an older guy, everything gets all messed up. One of them dies, one later goes to prison and another ends up being the arresting officer. There’s also a recent spate of atrocious serial killings that may be connected to the past murder . . .

 

The big draw here is finding out the why just as much as the who. Why did one of these friends die? What really happened that night? Who is keeping secrets? And, who is killing innocents in the modern day? Also, why is Angela such a bitch? That one is never answered, she just is! None of it makes sense until the very end where it all comes together in a glorious rush of craziness that worked for me in every way.

 

Most of these characters are imperfect and awful, cruel, jealous, vindictive and selfish but I could not, did not want, to stop reading for a moment. This book is so addictive. If you like this stuff, you MUST read it.

 

“Because that smell – of rotting flesh, of rotting soul – is you.”

 

 

The Beast of Brenton Woods by Jackson R. Thomas

The Beast of Brenton Woods - Jackson R. Thomas

There is a werewolf on the loose and he’s got murder, food and procreating on the brain!

 

If you want a fast paced, action-packed, blood-soaked read and are sick and tired of watered down monsters you should give this one a go. I think you will be very satisfied. There are a few people who accidentally get in his path but, for the most part, his victims are no big loss to society.

 

This story is more than just people eating fun though and that’s why I liked it. There’s some good characterization, realistic dialogue and interesting plot threads here too. There’s a young boy who feels a weird connection to this monster and thinks his momma is keeping secrets and there’s a teenager who has a heart of gold and risks everything to save his feckless sister. It’s good to have a couple of good guys to root for in this cruel, cruel world.

 

This reminded me slightly of a Richard Laymon story, what with the pervy men and stupid people, but it wasn’t nearly as in your face with it all and there wasn’t all the rump and boob talk that Laymon loved so much. I enjoyed it without ever wanting to murder one of the characters myself.

 

My only minor issue was the plethora of characters. There were a lot of them in this novella and sometimes I struggled trying to remember who was who but maybe that’s due to my crappy memory and the fact that I couldn’t finish it in a sitting or two.

 

At any rate, it’s a solid four star read and recommended for you beast lovers!

The Ladies of Horror Fiction Challenge Cross-post

This is a cross-post, this is not a booklikes challenge.This challenge is a photo challenge based on Instagram and Twitter. If you use either of those outlets and would like to join us we'd love to have you. There is a book prize at the end for all entries posted to Twitter & Instagram. We created the challenge to spotlight ladies writing horror fiction because our feeds were filled to the brim with horror fiction written by men and we wanted to change that a little.Not that there's anything wrong with fiction written by men but there are a lot of ladies writing it as well. I also selfishly wanted to find more author's to add to my tbr.
 
I'm cross-posting this as an example of what a typical post looks like on instagram.
 
It's day #1 of our Ladies of Horror Fiction challenge and I hope you can join us to showcase horror fiction written by the ladies. See the rest of the posts by using the #LadiesOfHorrorFiction hashtag at Twitter & Instagram.
 
Here's my picture of the day:
 
 
My stack features some tbr scary tales that I discovered lurking in my basement when I went looking for Angela Carter's THE BLOODY CHAMBER. I didn't find it but I know it's down there somewhere. . . 
 
In this pile resides:
(all links lead to Goodreads)
 
 
1598806
 
 
1172031
 
 
 1733507
 
 
218756
 
 
7182421
 
 
1708263
 
See the rest of the pretty pictures by clicking on this Instagram picture:
 
& over on Twitter by clicking the lovely picture below:
 
 
 
Look at all those books and it's only day #1!! What on earth should I read first? My wallet is going to be crying very soon. If you've read any of these featured books let me know your thoughts in the comments. 

 

Ladies of Horror Fiction Challenge

Hi everyone! Sorry for neglecting booklikes a little these past few weeks. I've been working on a fun project and seem to run out of time at the end of the day to do all the things I usually do. I meant to post about this sooner . . .

 

A few horror reading friends and I have put together a photo challenge for August highlighting Ladies of Horror Fiction. If you use Instagram or Twitter we'd love it if you'd join us. This is the first challenge for many of us and we hope to shine the spotlight on the ladies and find a whole bunch of great reads in the process.  All you have to do is post a picture of a horror novel fitting the prompt on each day and talk a little about the book. You can participate as much or as little as works for you and you do not have to be a lady in order to participate :) There will also be an international giveaway of a horror novel written by a woman  (as long as BookDepository delivers to you), and each photo posted for the challenge will be an entry.

Also, if you have any favorite Ladies of Horror Fiction please leave me titles in the comments and I will be forever grateful!

Here's the breakdown:

 

The Broken Girls by Simone St. James

The Broken Girls - Simone St. James

The Broken Girls is a book that straddles two timelines. Usually books like this leave me confused at least a time or two but not this one. They’ll often leave me frustrated too because I typically find one timeline far more interesting than the other but that didn’t happen this time around either. I think what it all breaks down to is the characters. Too many murder mystery thrillers focus on the murders and the police procedural aspects and all the dynamics that go along with that and though this book has some of that stuff it wasn’t the main focus so I never drifted away. The main focus is on the characters and their emotional ties either to each other or to getting to the truth at whatever cost for deeply personal reasons. I read for character, for the most part, so that’s why I dug this story. If you’re that type of reader I think you might like it a lot too.

 

There is a lot of stuff going on here and none of it is boring. There wasn’t a single moment when I felt the need to drift away or long to pick up something else. There’s a murder or two or maybe more. . . I’m not saying. Some murder takes place in the past, one in the not too distant past and the ramifications are a big source of motivation for the modern day character. My favorite part of this story was the friendship that was so skillfully and carefully developed between a group of misfits and misbehaving girls in the 1950’s who are carted off to Idlewild Hall and are mostly forgotten by their families. Their friendship and the terrible thing that happens (and no I am NOT telling you what it is) had me glued to the book. These girls and their day to day troubles came to life. But besides being a house for wayward girls, Idlewild Hall may also be inhabited by a ghost or two!

 

I loved all of it and I am so afraid of spoiling anything that I’m not going to say anything else. Instead I will leave you with this bookwormy quote that made me forever a fan of Sonia.

 

“Sonia envied her, the way she could turn her brain off, think about absolutely nothing. It was a trick Sonia herself had never learned. That was what books did - they turned off your thinking for you, put their thoughts in your head so you wouldn't have your own.”

 

 Yep

Reading progress update: I've read 75%.

Jar of Hearts - Jennifer Hillier

This book is spilling its bloody tea all over me and I love it. It is sooo juicy! 

The Sea Was A Fair Master by Calvin Demmer

The Sea Was a Fair Master - Calvin Demmer

Sorry for my lack of anything. I was on vacation and intended to do so many things and did none of them. I had fun in the real world though. Now, back to my regularly scheduled thoughtless reviews:

 

This is a collection of little short stories or as they’re better known “flash fiction”. There are 23 of them and when I realized how short they were I have to admit I was super worried that they’d be a waste of my time. I mean, I have trouble with a lack of a complete story in a novella, never mind a story that is only 2 pages or so! But once I started reading them I was no longer worried. These stories are eerie, creepy, sinister, sometimes bleak or funny and always creative and best of all they are COMPLETE! One or two even almost made me get teary. How the author managed to do that with so few words is beyond me but I’m glad he did and I can easily recommend it for any weird fiction and horror fan. 

There’s a little something for everyone here and I wasn’t disappointed with any of the stories but, of course, there were some I liked better than others. I'd say my least favorites were the two having to do with the sea. Here are my favorites with vague little recaps. 

Restroom Finds is filled with gory gorgeousness and is set during the aftermath of an apocalypse. All I have to say is, when are people finally going to listen to Agent Mulder and Trust No One?! And that means absolutely NO ONE!

Underneath is a darkly demented, humorous little tale about a man and his wife that still makes me laugh when I think of it. But perhaps there is something wrong with me!

Yara Damn this one. This one made me go all bleary eyed when I least expected it.

Revenge of the Myth Krampus comes a-calling and you can bet I loved this one. It’s complete but I’m greedy and I want it expanded into a novella! Who can ever get enough of the sexy Krampus, lol.




The One is a weird little voyeuristic look into the desperation of a homeless man willing to do the most awfullest of awful things in order to win the hand of the woman he loves. It’s gruesome and it’s fun, if you’re a weirdo.

Letting the Dead Grow A cemetery grounds keeper takes his macabre garden very, very seriously using the materials he has on hand.

Graves Oh, ouch this one stings the heart until it’s dead. 

If you like this sort thing, I suggest you grab a copy of this collection. Each story is like a little present, and most contain an unexpected nasty little surprise inside. What more could you want?!

Currently reading

Sadie by Courtney Summers
The Listener by Robert R. McCammon
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