Posts Tagged ‘Gallery Books’

BOOK INFO

Length: 384 Pages

Publisher: Gallery Books

Release Date: February 7, 2017

Review copy provided by author in exchange for an honest review

Ania Ahlborn is one of my favorite horror authors today and she is one of the few writers that I would order a book from sight unseen. I forget how I first happened upon her smash hit debut Seed, which started off as a self-published work, but after reading it I was hooked. It was brutal and terrifying and Ahlborn unleashed some truly wicked twists and turns that cemented me as a fan for life. I have followed her career ever since and devouring every new release as soon as I get my hands on them. There is no denying her talent and there is something about her writing that just grabs my attention and refuses to let go until I finish whatever story it is I happen to be reading.

The Devil Crept In opens with 12-year-old Jude Brighton missing and his younger cousin Stevie and the residents of Deer Valley combing the woods searching for him. He disappeared that Sunday after spending the day with Stevie collecting broken two-by-fours to complete their fort in the woods. Despite the large manhunt, hope is dwindling as no one has found a trace of Jude. Making matters worse is the town’s dark history that looms over the search. Years ago, another child named Max Larsen was missing until his mutilated body was discovered not far from the woods. Deer Valley residents feared that a killer was on the loose in their sleepy town and the fact that no one was ever charged with the murder put the town on edge and they tried to scrub it from existence by never speaking of the murder ever again.

Stevie fears that his cousin’s reputation around Deer Valley means the adults will not give the investigation the attention it deserves. He decides that he is his cousin’s only hope, armed with his knowledge from the cop shows he loves so much and his notebook. He hits the streets determined to find the truth about his cousin. While searching for Jude in the woods, Stevie can’t help but fear the worst and his thoughts keep drifting back to the dilapidated and eerie house that sits secluded in the woods not far from their fort. Is there a connection? However, his search for his cousin leads him to truths that are far more terrifying than he could ever imagine. Something isn’t quite right in Deer Valley and just what did happen to all of the town’s pets?

Ahlborn has some outstanding setting work in this novel, particularly the scenes of the woods. After the loss of his cousin, the forest went from being a source of wonder to a source of dread for Stevie. “But now, standing at the gaping maw of what suddenly felt like a forbidden land, all he could do was coil his arms around himself and stare into the green-glowing gloom”.Nondescript scenery like ferns and moss are given ominous descriptions that make them seem dripping with malice. Then there is the description of the abandoned house. Ahlborn paints a vivid picture of the house and if I could, I would include the whole section here because it captures the eeriness of the house and cultivates a tension that there is something not right with that house. The descriptions work because many, if not all, of us have had those moments as kids. That abandoned house or section of woods where rumors swirl and imaginations conjure up the scariest and darkest possibilities imaginable.

What makes The Devil Crept In such an engaging read is the originality of the premise. Throughout the novel, Ahlborn makes readers question just what exactly is happening in the woods of Deer Valley. There are hints scattered throughout this seemingly sleepy small town that something isn’t right, but you can’t quite place your finger on it. That nagging sense of mystery is part of the fun of this novel. Reviewing this book is near impossible because of the potential for spoilers. I will say that of all the crazy ideas that ran through my head, cobbled together from years of reading horror novels and watching horror films, the truth behind what happened to Jude never crossed my mind.

Ahlborn’s characters are fantastic and I normally can’t get into novels that function primarily around young protagonists. However, Ahlborn does a wonderful job with Stevie and Jude. Stevie is an outcast who is constantly teased at school due to his stuttering problem and the hallucinations that plague him every day of his life. He has no friends except for Jude, so when Jude goes missing he feels it is his responsibility to save his only friend. He has a love of true crime shows and that obsession fuels his search for Jude. While Stevie is a sympathetic character, Jude is borderline obnoxious, but it plays wonderfully in the context of the story. Jude is seen as a menace around town, someone who is always causing trouble and drawing extra scrutiny from the adults around town. When he goes missing, Stevie and consequently the reader, wonder if maybe the town isn’t so concerned with bringing him back home. That maybe, just maybe, everyone’s lives would be a little bit better if he just stayed missing. What keeps Jude from reaching full-blown annoying territory is the fact that he suffered a great tragedy that may have helped shape the world view and attitude that makes him the pariah of Deer Valley.

I have seen in interviews for The Devil Crept In that Ahlborn’s where she mentions that the novel takes a look at the differences between the worlds of adults and kids. That theme is hammered home throughout the novel and it is one that I think is very interesting. I remember when I was growing up, and I am sure anyone else reading this can as well, being absolutely convinced that there was something large and terrifying hiding under the bed or peeking out of a slightly open closet door. Part of it is the darkness and shadows playing tricks on you, but you are convinced that something is in there. Inevitably, you scream for your parents and when they come in they explain to you that monsters aren’t real. The older we get, we largely outgrow those experiences. But why do we have them? What if there really was something strange going on? That is largely highlighted to a degree by Stevie and the way he is portrayed throughout the novel. His biggest struggle is trying to get someone, anyone to listen to him. But they shrug him off or look at him funny because he is a 10-year-old boy, which would be hard enough for him to deal with. But Stevie also has a mental illness, one that his family tends to overlook. This all combines to make it damn near impossible for him to get anyone to believe him.

While as of this writing The Bird Eater still reigns supreme as my favorite of her books, The Devil Crept In is another stellar offering from a gifted storyteller. An original premise, vivid characters and a great sense of atmosphere (not to mention some truly unnerving scenes) all mesh together to create a thrilling reading experience. If you haven’t read any of Ahlborn’s work yet, I highly recommend grabbing at least one of her books. I have a feeling once you read one, you’ll be hooked, just like I was!

Rating: 4.5/5

LINKS

Ania Ahlborn Official Website

Gallery Books’ Official Website

Purchase The Devil Crept In: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Gallery Books, or grab a copy from your favorite bookstore!

About Ania Ahlborn

Ania Ahlborn is the bestselling author of the horror thrillers Brother, Within These Walls, The Bird Eater, The Shuddering, The Neighbors, and Seed, and the novella The Pretty Ones. Born in Ciechanow, Poland, she lives in South Carolina with her husband and their dog. Visit AniaAhlborn.com or follow the author on Facebook and Twitter @AniaAhlbornAuthor.

I am a bit late with my 2015 as the first month of 2016 is rapidly coming to a close, but I still wanted to take a minute and share some of my favorite reads from this year. 2015 was a great year here at The Horror Bookshelf. The blog celebrated its one year anniversary back in April, I made some great friends, I got to take part in SFSignal’s Mind Meld feature and I had the honor of premiering a brand new story from Glenn Rolfe.

I never really made a post for The Horror Bookshelf’s first anniversary, so I wanted to just take a minute and touch on a few things before getting to my list of favorite reads for the year. I started this blog as my way of giving back to the extremely talented writers who have created the books I enjoy reading and connecting with other horror fans. In that respect, I think the first year of The Horror Bookshelf was a huge success. I am so thankful for all of the writers and publishers who reached out to me and offered me review copies and words of encouragement along the way. Without you and the books you spend so much time crafting, The Horror Bookshelf would not exist. I also want to thank anyone who has ever taken the time to read any of my reviews, interviews or guest posts. There is no greater feeling as a reviewer than introducing someone to a potentially new favorite author or a great book and I hope that by visiting this site, you have found a few.

There are so many people to thank for helping this blog become what it is today, but I wanted to take a moment to thank a few special people who have shown me a humbling amount of support since the very beginning. A huge thank you to my friends and family, Tony and Sharon at Grey Matter Press, John F.D. Taff, David Spell, Mark Matthews, Dale Elster and Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi. You have all offered me so much support and tons of encouragement when The Horror Bookshelf was getting off the ground and I will always be grateful for that. I also want to thank my beautiful wife for encouraging me to follow my dreams and for giving me that boost of confidence I need when I feel like I can’t possibly keep everything going.

I am not usually big on New Year’s Resolutions, but what the hell, I came up with some for The Horror Bookshelf anyway.

1. Read more in 2016 – This one is fairly vague and for anyone that runs a review site, it sounds borderline crazy. I read a ton of great novels in 2016, but one of my biggest regrets was that I didn’t read that many novellas, short stories or anthologies this year. I hope to change that in 2016 and also to increase the amount of novels I read in a year.

2. Get more organized – I am notorious for my poor organizational habits, but I have already made some progress by using a planner (that my wife made me buy) to help me keep track of all my upcoming reviews, interviews and features. This may be the most mundane and boring resolution of the list, but it is an underrated part of keeping a review site going in my opinion.

3. Keeping the site updated more frequently – This may be the biggest challenge of them all. I am the only writer on The Horror Bookshelf and the amount of reviews I have going at any given time can be overwhelming, but I want to set a modest goal – starting in February – of posting at least once a week. Sort of on the same topic, if I owe you a review and have not posted it yet, I promise I haven’t forgotten! I appreciate every author that sends me a book for review and sometimes time gets away from me, but I promise I will get to them soon.

Here is a list of my favorite reads from 2015. I decided to go with a Top 10 for novels, a Top 5 for novellas and a Top 3 for Anthologies and Collections. Thanks for sticking with me this far and I hope you find some great new reads on this list!

1 . Brian Kirk We Are Monsters (Samhain Horror)

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2. Richard Thomas Disintegration (Random House Alibi)

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3. Ronald Malfi Little Girls (Kensington)

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4. Ania Ahlborn Behind These Walls (Gallery Books)

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5. Hunter Shea Tortures of the Damned (Kensington/Pinnacle)

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6. Jonathan Janz Wolf Land (Samhain Horror)

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7. D. Alexander Ward Blood Savages (Necro Publications)

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8. Russell James Q Island (Samhain Horror)

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9. Glenn Rolfe Blood and Rain (Samhain Horror)

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10. Kristopher Rufty Jagger (Sinister Grin Press)

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Novellas

1. John F.D. Taff The Sunken Cathedral (Grey Matter Press)

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2. Kealan Patrick Burke Sour Candy (Self-published)

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3. Glenn Rolfe Abram’s Bridge (Samhain Horror)

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4. Adam Howe Gator Bait (Comet Press)

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5. Matt Manochio Twelfth Krampus Night (Samhain Horror)

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Anthologies and Collections

1. Savage Beasts (Grey Matter Press)

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2. Todd Keisling Ugly Little Things – Volume One (Precipice Books)

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3. Tony Knighton Happy Hour and Other Philadelphia Cruelties (Crime Wave Press) 

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BOOK INFO

Publisher: Gallery Books

Length: 464 Pages

Release Date: April 21, 2015

eARC provided by Netgalley and publisher in exchange for an honest review

Within These Walls tells the story of Lucas Graham, a true crime writer who went from being on top of the world with bestselling books and interviews on major talk shows to finding his marriage crumbling around him and his success all dried up after not releasing a hit book in ten years. Lucas feels like a failure and can see everything important to him slipping away, but his life changes when he receives a letter from Jeffrey Halcomb, a notorious cult leader who is currently in prison for life following what appears to be a satanic ritual that left 10 people dead. Halcomb has avoided interview requests for years, his silence making his legend grow even as interest in the case waned. He offers Lucas an exclusive interview to give his side of the story since he admires Lucas’ ability to bring the past to life, but only if he follows three conditions: all interviews must be done in person, Lucas must move into his old home on 101 Montlake Road in Pier Pointe, Washington and everything must be completed within four weeks. For Lucas, this letter seems like a beacon of hope, the chance he needs to get his career back on track and attempt to save his marriage.

Lucas seizes his last chance at redemption and moves out to Pier Pointe with his young daughter Vee to immerse himself in Halcomb’s world but realizes that something feels off about the house. His first night in the house he hears strange noises coming from the kitchen that sets him on edge and sees a shadow in the darkness. This sense of unease is also felt by Lucas’ daughter, who also begins to see apparitions and develops a fascination with the history of the house that threatens to tear her from her father forever. When Halcomb backs out of his agreement with Lucas, it upends his world and makes him desperate to finish his book by any means necessary. As the pressure mounts and Halcomb’s deadline grows closer, he discovers something far more sinister than he ever expected.

The structure of Within These Walls was a risky choice because the novel alternates between chapters told in the present from both Lucas’ and his daughter Vee’s point of view and sections set in the past from the point of view of one of Halcomb’s followers, Audra Snow. In addition to the timeline shifts, there are occasional references to snippets from police reports, paranormal investigations and news reports. While there was the potential for the plot and pacing of the novel to suffer from these timeline jumps and interludes, Ahlborn weaves these elements together masterfully. Each plot thread offers its own contained narrative, but the sections compliment each other when you realize the events Audra describe help bring light to the unsettling occurrences that Lucas and Vee experience in the Montlake Road house.

The characterization in Within These Walls, much like Ahlborn’s other works, is the highlight of this novel. I loved how Ahlborn handled Halcomb’s character. Though the story revolves around him and the crime he committed, the reader doesn’t really see anything from his point of view, but rather gets a glimpse of who he is through the eyes of the other characters. By seeing him through other peoples eyes, we see what made him such a powerful figure and why people were so eager to disengage from their past lives and follow him in his nomadic existence. Ahlborn also crafts a downright creepy back story behind Jeffrey’s past that sent chills down my spine!

Then there is the portrayal of Audra Snow, the daughter of a congressman who was one of the last people to join Halcomb’s group. She is living in her parents summer home, pregnant and trying to get her life together. She struggles with depression due to her uncaring upbringing and feels that she is not worth anything. That all begins to change when she meets Halcomb and the rest of his group. Initially it is a man named Deacon, who Audra bonds with over their similar lives of parents who provided them with all the material possessions they could ever desire but never the love they craved. When he explains that Halcomb’s group is her ticket to not feeling alone, Audra is drawn in to a world unlike anything she could have imagined. Despite the red flags that pop up in her mind when she learns more about the group’s beliefs, Audra pushes them aside for the promise of acceptance.

While Within These Walls offers plenty of scares and supernatural occurrences, the real terror comes from the very realistic portrayal of the cult-like nature of the group and the evil that resides within its members. The novel slowly builds tension throughout Lucas’ investigation, but as the mystery of Halcomb and his plans for dragging Lucas halfway across the country begins to reveal itself, Ahlborn ramps up the action before unleashing a clever and unsettling plot twist that left me stunned.

Within These Walls is an immensely engaging novel with the perfect balance of atmosphere, horror and mystery that make it a must read for any dark fiction fan. I couldn’t help but get sucked into the world Ahlborn created and frequently found myself saying “just one more chapter…” while reading, which is when I knew that I held a truly great book in my hands. What always impresses me about Ania’s work is the depth of her writing and diversity of each novel. There is the straightforward thriller The Neighbors, the creature-filled The Shuddering and her bleak haunted house novel The Bird Eater. Now with Within These Walls, Ania Ahlborn crafts a multi-layered novel that highlights her strengths as a writer and cements her as one of the genre’s most exciting authors to read. This year is going to be a good one for Ahlborn with the release of this stellar novel and the release of Brother and the novella The Pretty Ones later in the year, both of which are definitely on my list of most anticipated reads of 2015.

Rating: 5/5

LINKS

Ania Ahlborn’s Official Website

Gallery Books

Purchase Within These Walls on Amazon