Posts Tagged ‘Books of the Dead press’

A Life of Death2

BOOK INFO

Publisher: Books of the Dead Press

Length: 228 Pages

Review copy provided by the author in exchange for an honest review

Earlier this year I had the pleasure of reviewing Weston Kincade’s A Life of Death, a highly enjoyable coming of age novel that details the life of teenager Alex Drummond and his struggles with his paranormal abilities. Alex was put through the emotional wringer in Kincade’s first book, having lost his father at a young age, dealing with a nightmarish home life in the aftermath, and suffering a devastating loss. Despite all of these hardships, he was able to show a resiliency that made him an immediately likeable character.

The Golden Bulls is the second book in the A Life of Death series and focuses largely on Alex Drummond’s adult life and work as a detective in his hometown of Tranquil Heights. Despite Tranquil Heights reputation as a small, quiet town, a sinister serial killer is at work and has alluded the police for over 15 years. The victims are all residents of the town and every year on September 20th, a new body is found. There is evidence of a ritual sacrifice and all of the victims have been burned, destroying any evidence and making it virtually impossible for Alex to use his abilities to catch the killer.

Alex has a suspect in the murders and follows her to Washington D.C. under directives to catch the killer at any cost. While there, he meets up with his childhood best friend Jessie, who gives him a place to crash and assists Alex in his investigation. As they begin working together and discussing details of the case, Jessie begins acting weird and dismissing some of Alex’s theories leading Alex to believe that his friend may know more than he is letting on. The only lead he has to go on aside from the Tranquil Heights connection is that all of the victims had an ankh tattoo – a symbol of truth. Alex’s investigation leads him to explore the world of Ancient Egypt and as he begins piecing together the clues in his case, he gets the overwhelming sense that he is somehow connected. What Alex ultimately uncovers puts himself and everyone he cares about in grave danger in a plot twist that I definitely did not see coming!

The Golden Bulls offers flashbacks to Alex’s life immediately after the events of the first novel and while they are crucial elements to the story, the novel occasionally suffers lulls due to the frequent shifting of timelines. Just when the tension begins to escalate in Alex’s search for the killer, we are often pulled right out of the action by switching to his past and lengthy visions of victims from Ancient Egypt. The knowledge he gleans from these visions ultimately aid in his investigation, but having them grouped so close together hinders the main plot in my opinion.

I loved the fact that A Life of Death relied just as much on Alex’s real-life struggles as it did his visions and Kincade continues that balance with The Golden Bulls. As much as I enjoyed the first novel, I think The Golden Bulls is even better. Kincade crafts an intriguing mystery at the heart of the novel and a truly frightening serial killer, but it still contains the heart that made the first installment so engaging. Kincade is currently working on a third installment in the series and the revelations that come at the end of The Golden Bulls hints at a pretty interesting direction.

Rating: 4/5

LINKS

Weston Kincade Official Website

Books of the Dead Press

Purchase A Life of Death – Book Two: The Golden Bulls on Amazon

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SuspendedInDusk

BOOK INFO

Publisher: Books of the Dead Press

Length: 293 Pages

Review copy provided by the editor in exchange for an honest review

Fall is finally here and it is my favorite season of all. I mean, I run a site called The Horror Bookshelf, so naturally October and Halloween are my favorite times of the year. Lately, I have been reading a lot of dark fiction anthologies, which make for perfect Halloween reading. My most recent review was for The New Black, a stellar anthology edited by Richard Thomas and longtime readers already know about my love of the anthologies published by Grey Matter Press. I am fairly new to the world of anthologies, but it seems like the format is becoming increasingly popular lately. Tons of new anthologies and collections are making their rise in the horror genre and television anthology series’ like American Horror Story and True Detective are generating a lot of discussion among viewers.

I was excited to dive right into Suspended In Dusk, an anthology edited by Simon Dewar, after seeing the creepy cover and seeing that the introduction was written by the legendary Jack Ketchum. Suspended In Dusk features 19 stories from some incredibly talented horror writers and is loosely themed around dusk, a time where daylight fades into night and where the evils lurking in the shadows are finally unleashed. Dewar has collected a pretty diverse selection of stories for Suspended In Dusk, so there is a little bit of everything contained within its pages that will appeal to horror fans. Every reader is sure to have their own list of favorites, as all of the stories are highly entertaining and well-written, but the following stories were the ones that captured my imagination right off the bat.

“Taming The Stars” by Anna Reith is a beautifully written story that follows the paths of Michele, a man who is thrust into a shady job by his friend Antoine and Esther, a woman with a dark secret. Their two seemingly separate paths finally converge in a blood-filled encounter at the gangster Radouane’s house and their lives are never the same.

“At Dusk They Come” by Armand Rosamilia is a dark tale that really stuck with me due to the choice of setting. I have lived in small towns . THe story opens with mysterious, dark figures that seem ripped straight from the stuff nightmares are made of. Glowing eyes and armed with sharp claws, these beings emerge from the woods with dark intentions and strike a deal with the narrator – offer up your neighbors and your family lives.

“Digging Deep”, a story from British horror master Ramsey Campbell, is a frightening tale of a man who realizes has greatest fear has come true – he has been buried alive. Campbell’s story perfectly captures the desperation and claustrophobic nature of a very terrifying scenario that will keep you flipping through the pages until you reach the story’s utterly chilling conclusion.

Rayne Hall’s “Burning” stood out to me because it was one of the few stories that didn’t focus on the unknown or supernatural, but rather the darkness that dwells in the hearts of every day people.

Karen Runge’s “Hope Is Here” follows Gary, a homeless man hears rumors of a sanctuary for those living on the street run by The Sunshine Group. They supposedly offer clean showers and hot meals in exchange for filling out a simple questionnaire that will help them assist homeless people in getting off the streets and rehabilitating their lives. Gary quickly learns that this supposedly “no strings attached” offer of assistance is too good to be true.

I am a huge fan of post-apocalyptic stories and Suspended In Dusk has a few excellent entries that cover that theme extremely well. Angela Slatter’s “The Way of All Flesh” is a chilling story that focuses on a small town in the aftermath of. Sweet Bobby Tate is a predator who comes to Wolf’s Briar, West Virginia in search of victims in order to combat his hunger. Sweet Bobby Tate thinks he has hit the jackpot when he stumbles across the home of sixteen-year-old Annabel Adams, but realizes much too late that he may be in over his head. This story seems to take place in the aftermath of a zombie outbreak, but the story focuses instead on how the events have changed everyday people and the lengths they must go to survive.

J.C. Michael’s “Reasons To Kill” follows a band of survivors who have built a small community and have been surviving in relative comfort until a stranger moves into the community. The stranger is a bit of a recluse and makes the townspeople uneasy, but they decide to leave him in peace since he is not bothering anyone. However, when children go missing, the leaders within the community begin to suspect their newest resident is hiding something. The group starts to become unhinged when they argue over how to handle the situation and when they finally decide to investigate the newcomer’s home, they make a series of horrifying discoveries that forever alters their community.

I loved Suspended In Dusk because while some of the authors that appear in the anthology are familiar to me, I was also treated to some new writers who I had never heard before. I think there is no better feeling than discovering new authors that capture everything you love in a story and Dewar’s stellar anthology offers up plenty of those opportunities to horror fans. This is Dewar’s first entry into the anthology world and I think he nailed it. He brought together an impressive cast of authors and crafted one hell of an anthology despite numerous setbacks along the path to publication. I will definitely be looking forward to Dewar’s work in the future, both as an editor and an author. I highly recommend picking up Suspended In Dusk and giving it a read!

Rating: 4.5/5

LINKS

Books of the Dead Press’ Official Website

Purchase Suspended In Dusk on Amazon 

A Life of Death

BOOK INFO

Publisher: Books of the Dead Press

Length: 205 Pages

Review copy provided by author in exchange for an honest review

Weston Kincade’s A Life of Death is a highly enjoyable coming of age novel with a hint of paranormal occurrences. Alex Drummond is a detective who sits down with his son to discuss the most important moment of his life for a school project. What follows is a recounting of Alex’s teen years living in a three-bedroom trailer with his mom, his abusive stepfather and three step-siblings following the death of his father in a car accident. Alex soon discovers that he can see past deaths when he touches an object that a person touched when they died. He firsts discovers his gift while walking through town on his way to school. He touches a fence that surrounds the historic Brogand house and notices a musty odor before being transported into the past. Alex doesn’t simply see the murders happen, he inhibits the bodies of the victim. He experiences their thoughts and emotions and lives their final moments. Many of his visions involve other residents of Tranquil Heights and their families, but Alex begins to have visions that impact his personal life and set him on a path filled with sadness and tragedy.

A Life of Death is a very entertaining read and while Alex’s paranormal visions play a large role in the novel, they are not the sole focus. Instead, most of the action comes from Alex’s struggles at home as he attempts to protect his family from the violent and perpetually drunk Steve McCullin. Alex learns a dark secret about his stepfather that changes their interactions in an instant. No longer is Alex afraid of him and trying to solely avoid him, he gains the courage to stand up to Steve and protect his family.

While Alex’s visions may have frightened most people who found out they could suddenly see murders that have occurred in the past, Alex uses his new gift to try and fix past wrongs and learns a lot about himself in the process. He still mourns the loss of his father, but these visions give him a purpose. He is no longer on the aimless course he has grown used to (missing school and isolating himself), but rather standing up for what is right and trying to make a difference. Even though his world is swirling with chaos, his life begins to turn around when he falls in love with Paige and begins to build a relationship with his younger stepsisters.

The only real drawback with A Life of Death for me was the lack of back story regarding Alex’s abilities. I know that mediums often say their abilities manifested randomly at some point in their life and that could be what happened with Alex. However, there are is a moment in the book that indicates his abilities may not be so random and it would be interesting to see that angle explored.

A Life of Death is an emotional novel packed with terrifying visions, real life horrors and an intriguing premise that is sure to appeal to readers of a wide variety of genres. I am definitely looking forward to reading Kincade’s sequel, A Life of Death – The Golden Bulls, and seeing how Alex Drummond utilizes his unique gift in his career.

Rating: 4/5

LINKS

Weston Kincade Official Website

Books of the Dead Press

Purchase A Life of Death on Amazon

otloc

BOOK INFO

Publisher: Books of the Dead Press

Length: 150 Pages

Submitted by the author for review

On The Lips of Children is the latest horror novel from author Mark Matthews and focuses on Macon, his girlfriend Erin and their daughter Lyric as they venture to San Diego for a marathon. Macon plans to use the trip to show Erin that he can provide for them and plans on using the family getaway to propose. However, during a late night warm-up run to the beach, everything quickly falls apart as the family falls victim to a sinister family that lives in an abandoned drug tunnel. What follows is a struggle for survival that tests the resolve of both Macon and Erin as they try to escape the unspeakable horror that awaits them in the tunnel.

Matthews does an amazing job of building a sense of dread throughout the novel. Right from the beginning he gives you a glimpse of Lupita, the mother of twins Q and T, and her life trapped in the collapsed drug tunnel. She is left alone with her two infant children and a slew of hostages her husband Dante kidnapped to fuel his meth addiction. Afraid that Dante will not return from his attempt to find an exit to the tunnel and with no way to feed her children, she makes a drastic choice that has ramifications throughout the novel. This bleak scene of isolation and violence gives the reader an inkling of the horror that awaits and plants a seed of doubt in your mind every time you meet a new character. The hotel manager in the beginning gives off a creepy vibe and immediately you begin to wonder – is he somehow involved? Matthews uses this strategy to his advantage and the result is a gripping plot with plenty of twists that make for an exciting and heart-pounding read.

Matthews also does an amazing job bringing the characters to life through flashbacks and inner monologues. After seeing the hardships that Macon and Erin have gone through in their lives, I couldn’t help but feel a connection with them and root for them to exact some sort of revenge on their captors for the horrors they were forced to endure.

Normally I tend to gravitate to horror novels that feature a supernatural element, but On The Lips of Children proves that our own capabilities for violence and darkness are every bit as frightening as any supernatural force. This novel was my first introduction to Matthews’ work and I absolutely loved it! I am definitely looking forward to his future books and this is an absolute must-read for any horror fan.

Rating: 4.5/5

Links

Mark Matthews’ official website

Purchase On The Lips of Children on Amazon

thebellwitch

BOOK INFO

Publisher: Books of the Dead Press

Length: 266 Pages

I discovered John F.D. Taff’s newest novel The Bell Witch completely by chance while browsing Amazon’s bestseller list for horror. People always say you should never judge a book by its cover, but the sinister looking cover (which I later found out was designed by one of my favorite authors Kealan Patrick Burke) is what immediately grabbed my attention. Intrigued, I decided to check out the synopsis and once I learned it was based on The Bell Witch Haunting, that was all it took to have me hooked.

John F.D. Taff’s novel focuses on the Bells, an early 19th century farm family from Tennessee who are haunted by an entity known only as the “Witch”. The entities arrival at the Bell homestead causes the Bells to fall into chaos as they are plagued by odd sounds, occasional bouts of violence and unrelenting taunts. The hauntings are limited to the home at first and the Bells think that if they just ignore the disturbances, The Witch will go away. The domineering patriarch of the Bell family, Jack Bell, refuses to allow his slaves into the house and places a ban on speaking about the disturbances to prevent others in the town from finding about the entity. However, the Witch foils these plans by making an appearance at the local church and announcing its presence to the entire town when it interrupts the church service.

While the Witch torments all of the members of the Bell family and other people who cross its path, it focuses much of its energy and hatred toward Jack. It frequently tells him and his family that its main purpose for existing is to make Jack suffer and that before it leaves it will kill him. The reason its anger falls mostly upon Jack is one of the novel’s central mysteries and is directly related to what The Witch is and why it has decided to  torment the Bell family.

As a former history major, huge fan of documented hauntings and all things paranormal, I absolutely loved The Bell Witch. Many familiar with the Bell Witch Haunting will take issue with the artistic liberties Taff has taken with the legend and feel disappointed it doesn’t strictly adhere to the events reported to have occurred. However, I applaud Taff for making the history of the Bell Witch his own because it adheres to the spirit of the legend. The two definitive texts on the legend were published 60 and 75 years after the alleged events. Who is to say those writers did not take liberties of their own? Besides, Taff’s liberties with the Bell Witch story make for a truly unique origin story for the Bell Witch.

It is also important to note that The Bell Witch is not an all out fright-fest, so if that is what you are looking for, you may be disappointed with The Bell Witch. However, if you can appreciate an atmospheric ghost story that leans more towards “quiet horror” territory, you will fall in love with this novel. That isn’t to say the book doesn’t have its truly frightening moments, though. There is a pretty creepy possession scene that horror fans will love and Taff does an incredible job of adding quick shots of terror through the Witch’s actions. The action occasionally lags, but overall The Bell Witch is an outstanding take on a uniquely American ghost story that I would highly recommend.

Taff recently announced a new novella collection for Grey Matter Press titled The End in All Beginnings and two rewritten novels titled The Exterminator and The Orpheus Box for Books of the Dead Press and to say these are highly anticipated would be an understatement.

Rating: 4/5

Links

John F.D. Taff’s Official Website

Books of the Dead Press

Purchase The Bell Witch on Amazon