Posts Tagged ‘Jonathan Janz’

I’m a bit late with my 2017 list as the first month of 2018 is just about over (seriously, where did this year go?), but I still wanted to take a minute and share some of my favorite reads from this year. There is always a staggering amount of great horror books released every year, but this year felt like it was a really high mark for horror fiction. I’m already anticipating a ton of 2018 releases, so I have a feeling I will be saying the same thing next year!

This list is by no means exhaustive of all the books out there, some I was unfortunately unable to get to in time to include on this list. However, of the works I did get to read, these were among my favorites. There are a lot of books on here that appeared on numerous other lists, but I think you may find a few new selections and I hope that you will check them out and find something you enjoy. I also wanted to take a quick moment to say that I’m so glad to be a part of the horror community. I have met so many great people through running The Horror Bookshelf that I talk to fairly regularly and other than talking about the books I love, it makes all the time that goes into writing posts totally worth it. I hope to meet more fellow bloggers and writers and to be more engaged in 2018. Now that I got all of my rambling out of the way, allow me to introduce you to my Favorite Reads of 2017!

Novels

1. Josh Malerman – Black Mad Wheel

Leading off my list of favorite reads for the year is Malerman’s stellar Black Mad Wheel. I have been a fan of Malerman’s ever since discovering his debut Bird Box, which was highly original and one of my favorite novels of the past few years. Black Mad Wheel follows Detroit-based rock band The Danes as they attempt to track down the source of a mysterious and extremely dangerous sound emanating from an African desert. Malerman’s characterization is top-notch and his experience as a musician is what makes The Danes come alive. Throw in a mystery that compels you to journey deeper into the desert with the Danes and you have a compulsively readable novel that shows why Malerman is quickly becoming a favorite among horror fans.

2. Jonathan Janz  – Exorcist Falls

Exorcist Falls is the sequel to Janz’s novella Exorcist Road, which was originally released through Samhain Horror and appears in print again in this Sinister Grin edition. Exorcist Falls kicks off with the original novella, which is great for people like me that missed Exorcist Road the first time around or those who wish to re-read it to experience the story as a whole. Exorcist Falls draws inspiration from the towering classics that started America’s fascination with possession stories William Peter Blatty’s The Exorcist and Legion and starts with a quote from The Exorcist. I could go on for hours about how much I loved Exorcist Falls (and almost did in my review), but I will sum it up by saying Janz conjures up some truly diabolical evil in this novel and it features some of the most bone chilling scenes I have read in a possession story. This is right up there with Children of the Dark for my favorite Janz novel.

3. Ronald MalfiBone White

Ronald Malfi consistently puts out great novels and if you are a regular follower of The Horror Bookshelf, it should come as no surprise to see Malfi’s name near the top of my list. Last year The Night Parade was my top book of the year and really struck a chord in me especially as a new father. Bone White is a novel that stuck with me, but for far more sinister reasons. Bone White follows Paul Gallo as he ventures into the Alaskan wilderness to a town called Dread’s Hand in hopes of finding out the truth of what happened to his twin brother who went missing over a year ago. What he finds is a town that is superstitious and wary of outsiders, but that is only the start of a strange and dangerous journey that will alter Gallo’s life forever. Malfi steadily builds tension and fear throughout the course of Bone White which seeps into your bones and makes for a thrilling read. The remote Alaskan setting is perfect for story and Malfi utilizes that sense of isolation masterfully, so by the time you discover the crosses in the woods, you are creeped out beyond words. I recommend this novel at any time of the year, but this is a perfect read if you live in an area that gets a lot of snow and find yourself snowed in. Bone White is a stunning novel athat has me looking forward to Malfi’s next work.

4. Michelle Garza and Melissa Lason – Those Who Follow

Michelle Garza and Melissa Lason – who go by the nickname The Sisters of Slaughter- burst onto the scene last year with Mayan Blue, their Stoker nominated debut that took readers on a bloody trip into the Mayan underworld. Mayan Blue was a blast to read and ended up in my top 10 last year and I mentioned in my review that I couldn’t wait to see what they came up with next. Luckily I didn’t have to wait long as they released their sophomore novel Those Who Follow over the summer. I just squeezed this one in prior to starting this list and I am so glad I did. As much as I loved Mayan Blue, the Sisters of Slaughter have taken their writing to another level with Those Who Follow. This novel is dark and brutal, featuring a villain that relishes the torment and horror he inflicts on his victims. If you like your horror a little more on the extreme side, definitely add this one to your collection.

5. Paul KaneBefore

Before is one of three stellar novels released this year from Grey Matter Press. This was my first time reading Kane’s work and I was totally enthralled by the sprawling world he created in Before. I don’t want to delve too much into the novel as I have a more in-depth review in the works, but Before follows college professor Alex Webber who attempts to decipher the visions that plague him and avoid crossing paths with a being known as The Infinity. This is an engrossing novel that will appeal not only horror fans, but fans of other genres as well. Before is impressive in scope and the characters are excellent. I love the contrast of a seemingly average man going up against a force that wields a staggering power. Excellent novel and I can’t wait to dive into Kane’s other works, particularly Sherlock Holmes and the Servants of Hell!

6. J. Danielle DornThe Devil’s Call

The Devil’s Call is the debut novel from J Danielle Dorn, who I was surprised to learn was a local author. The novel comes from Inkshares, who is a publisher definitely on the rise as they have released this one and A God in the Shed from J-F. Dubeau (which I haven’t read yet, but is sitting in my TBR pile). The Devil’s Call is an interesting mash-up of the horror and Western genres set in 1859. Li Lian Callahan witnesses the brutal murder of her husband Dr. Matthew Callahan while carrying their first child. Little does this band of men know, they are dealing with a powerful witch that travels from Nebraska to Louisiana to the Badlands in order to bring her husband’s killers to justice by any means possible. I went into this one fairly blind and was blown away by Dorn’s gift for storytelling. Normally I’m not a huge fan of Western’s, but there was something magical about this one that kept me riveted right from the beginning. Dorn’s decision to have the narrative reflect Li Lian writing to her unborn daughter was a risky one, but she pulls it off flawlessly. Li Lian is probably my favorite character from this year along with Trixie from Chad Stroup’s Secrets of the Weird, which appears later on this list. Outstanding characterization and a fresh twist on the revenge tale, Dorn is writer worth following and I can’t wait to see what she comes up with next.

7. Hunter SheaWe Are Always Watching

Hunter Shea is another longtime favorite of The Horror Bookshelf and 2017 was a great year for Shea fans which saw the release of 2 novels and 4 novellas. We Are Always Watching is loosely based on a true story and follows West Ridley as he and his family move from New York to their grandfather’s rundown farm. Almost as soon as they move in, weird this begin happening around the farmhouse but the threats become all too real as Wes wakes up one day to see the words “WE SEE YOU” scrawled into his ceiling. As the danger beings to pile up, West must sift through long-held secrets and find a way to expose the mysterious Guardians once and for all. The paranoia Shea conjures up by having these events plague the family’s home is what makes this novel so good. A bit more “quiet” horror than readers are used to from Hunter, but it is refreshing and ranks pretty high up on my list of favorite Hunter Shea novels.

8. Ania AhlbornThe Devil Crept In

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. Out 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. 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!

9. J.D. BarkerThe Fourth Monkey

The Fourth Monkey is more of a psychological thriller, but it mines the same dark depths of the human psyche for inspiration that Forsaken did, making it a must read for fans of both genres. The Fourth Monkey is being described as Se7en meets The Silence of the Lambs and that is a pretty accurate comparison. This is a chilling thriller that is compulsively readable and offers up plenty of twists and turns, hinting at a very interesting future for characters in this book. While I hope for a continuation of Forsaken, I am loving Barker’s journey into the thriller genre and can’t wait to see what he comes up with next.

10. Karen RungeSeeing Double

Seeing Double is Karen Runge’s debut novel, coming from one of the best horror publishers around Grey Matter Press. This was one of the novels I was really looking forward to this year as I have been impressed with Runge’s writing ever since I read her story “Hope is Here” in the outstanding anthology Suspended in Dusk, which was edited by Simon Dewar. After that I was hooked, looking out for her short stories whenever they appeared in an anthology and then fully cementing myself as a life-long fan when I read her brilliant debut collection Seven Sins. While her talent is on evident display in her standalone stories, this collection is incredibly impressive and showcases her willingness to take risks with her stories and there were a few that utilized interesting formatting (layouts? structure?) that only added more power to her words. Needless to say when I caught wind of her debut novel Seeing Double, I could barely contain my excitement.

Seeing Double is a character driven piece and Runge expertly breathes life into these characters, which is important because there is a heavy psychological element to this story. Stories that depend on this sort of psychological tension and issues live and die on the strength of the author’s abilities to create realistic characters and Runge accomplishes that with ease. I have to applaud Runge for the rich layers and complexity of her narrative in Seeing Double, a novel that is sure to establish Runge as a force in the genre.

11. Chad StroupSecrets of the Weird

Chad Stroup’s Secrets of The Weird is a novel that has drawn comparisons to Clive Barker’s darker fantasy work, but honestly, defies easy description. Secrets of the Weird doesn’t exactly follow a linear approach in terms of the narrative of the story, but it works extremely well and enhances the story and allows for a vivid and personal look into the life of the main character Trixie. It alternates between the present (which if I remember correctly, is like 1991 or 1992 in the novel) and Trixie’s Diary entries from the late ’80s. Not only does the timeline remain fluid throughout much of the story, the point of view often switches between Trixie, members of the Civilized Cannibals, the Angelghoul and a few others. Stroup’s Secrets of the Weird is a wildly imaginative novel that is a must read for any dark fiction fan that is looking for something a little different. There is no denying Stroup is a talented new voice and his outstanding character development and willingness to experiment within the horror and fantasy genres have definitely made me a fan. I look forward to following Stroup’s future work and highly recommend grabbing a copy of this brilliant debut novel.

12. Glenn RolfeBecoming

I’ve been a huge fan of Glenn Rolfe’s work ever since I discovered his chilling debut The Haunted Halls. From there I devoured all of his books from Samhain. Becoming is an absolute blast, drawing from 80s horror movies, particularly creature features. Rolfe’s adrenaline-fueled style leads to an action packed story from start to finish. After the collapse of Samhain, I was worried it would be awhile before getting anything new from Rolfe. I was happy to be proven wrong. Rolfe has a few things in the works (a collection called Land of Bones and a novella called Follow Me Down) coming this year. If you haven’t read any of his books before, now is a perfect time to get started.

13. Russell JamesCavern of the Damned

James’ Cavern of the Damned is a fun read that delivers both adventure and horror in spades. The characters go up against giant, deadly prehistoric creatures all while trapped in a cave with virtually no weapons. Once I started this book, there was no putting it down until I reached the last page. I had a very minor issue with one of the subplots, but aside from that, Cavern of the Damned was a blast to to read. I could be wrong, but I think recently I saw that James said there was a sequel in the works. I hope that there are many more books to come in this series, I think he could do some really cool things with the idea developed in Cavern of the Damned.

14. Brian Fatah SteeleThere is a Darkness in Every Room

Steele’s novel is one that i think was severely underrated this year. Anyone who knows me or follows this blog knows about my borderline unhealthy obsession about UFOs and aliens and that is initially what drew me to Steele’s book. While Steele mixes in enough of “traditional” alien elements, he also injects a special blend of evil and madness that creates a unique and oftentimes bleak cosmic horror piece. Steele is a talented writer and luckily he announced an upcoming project through Bloodshot Books, so it shouldn’t be long until readers can get their hands on more of his stuff.

15. Catherine CavendishWrath of the Ancients

This was my first novel from Catherine Cavendish and I’m kicking myself for not checking out her work earlier. Cavendish offers up an atmospheric gothic horror tale that effortlessly blends together history and the supernatural to create an unsettling horror story that will appeal to almost any horror fan. While leaning a bit more toward quiet horror territory, there are plenty of hair-raising scenes draw from the steadily growing dread Cavendish creates over the course of Wrath of the Ancients. I’m definitely a fan and can’t wait to dive into some of her other works. This one is listed as Nemesis of the Gods #1, so I’m hoping there is more to come from this line even if they are only loosely connected.

Novella

1. Kealan Patrick Burke Blanky

Blanky focuses on Steve Brannigan, who is struggling to keep his life together after the tragic death of his infant daughter. He is estranged from his wife after the grief they both felt in the aftermath placed a strain on their marriage that drove them apart. Burke holds nothing back and starts Blanky with Steve giving a heartbreaking account of what it’s like to lose a child. Then Burke throws readers right into the story with one simple line, “That was the beginning of the end of my world. This is the rest of it.” Blanky is a devastating novella that utilizes emotion, atmosphere and outstanding characterization to create a truly haunting story. I remember when I read the synopsis, I knew this story was going to hit me hard. I’m a new parent and I couldn’t imagine a more terrifying scenario than the one Steve and Lex face in Blanky. Burke did not disappoint as Blanky messed with my emotions and kept me glued to the pages, reading it in a single sitting and feeling like I took a sucker punch to the gut. If you’re looking to start discovering Burke’s work, this is a good place to start.

2. Ania AhlbornI Call Upon Thee

I’ve already gone over my love of Ania Ahlborn’s work more times than I can count, so I will jump right into I Call Upon Thee. This novella from Ahlborn follows Maggie as she returns to her childhood following a family tragedy. Maggie had a normal childhood for the most part until an innocent act as a child invited an evil from the local cemetery into her life that has refused to ever leave since. Maggie realizes she must confront her past in an attempt to vanquish the evil that has been responsible for so much heartache and tragedy, but it will not be an easy fight. When I originally read this, I was struck by its resemblance to my favorite Ahlborn novel The Bird Eater. It is its own unique story, but carries some of the same emotional undertones as that novel and that is probably why this one is probably the “1B” to The Bird Eater’s “1A” status. While Ahlborn conjures up some of her scariest scenes in I Call Upon Thee, it is the familial relationships that serve as the heart of this novel. A lean, mean story that proves why Ahlborn is one of my favorite storytellers.

3. Hunter SheaSavage Jungle

Hunter Shea has created numerous excellent horror novels that vary in topic, but there is no denying he is the king of cryptid novels. His stories that focus on infamous cryptids are always some of my most anticipated reads because they are high-octane reads that never lost their intensity from start to finish. It’s also evident that Shea shares my passion and interest in cryptid lore and he pours every bit of his extensive knowledge into these tales and then ratchets up the terror as high as possible. Savage Jungle has all of those hallmark traits and just when I thought this story couldn’t get any more insane (and I mean that in the most complimentary way possible), Shea annihilates my expectations. For those who loved following the McQueen twins on their quest for revenge in Loch Ness Revenge, they will love this follow-up that finds them once again teaming up with their friend Henrik on his own personal vendetta. This time they trio venture into the depths of the Sumatran jungle in search of the Orang Pendek, but what they encounter is beyond their wildest dreams. There are other dangerous things waiting for them in the jungle and it takes every ounce of will power and weaponry to have a shot at escaping in one piece. This was another stellar entry into Shea’s body of work and a perfect example of why I will read anything he puts out, no questions asked.

Honorable Mention: Hunter SheaFury of the Orcas

I didn’t want to rank this one because it’s dedicated to me, but I’ll be damned if I don’t mention it in some capacity. Shea’s latest novella offering takes a look at what would happen if Orca whales suddenly went on the warpath and needless to say, the results aren’t pretty. This story is vintage Hunter Shea, full of absolute mayhem and tense scenes that will have you on the edge of your seat. If you haven’t already, snag a copy of this one from Severed Press. You can thank me later.

Anthologies/Collections

1. Josh MalermanGoblin

Goblin is a set of six novellas that all take place in the strange town of Goblin, where it is seemingly always raining and you definitely don’t want to cross paths with the ominous police force that seems to be made up of men who are a little…off. I don’t want to get too much into the novellas that make up Goblin as I am working on a pretty extensive review, but I was amazed at the way Malerman was able to give each one its own style and tone. Despite each novella being its own contained story, they all fit together neatly to form one cohesive whole. Goblin is a town that is filled with a dark history and bizarre events that will unsettle most horror fans, but despite the oddness and danger that is seemingly lurking below the surface, you won’t want to leave Malerman’s creation. There is no denying Malerman creativity and with this collection it really allows him to stretch his talents and the end result is six fantastic novellas and a town that will cement itself right alongside King’s Castle Rock and Derry.

2. Ed Erdelac – Angler in Darkness

I first heard about this collection of novellas from Shane Keene of Shotgun Logic and his recommendations are always golden, so I decided to check out this collection from Ed Erdelac. Angler in Darkness is his first collection of short fiction that spans over a decade and let me just say….why the hell aren’t more people talking about his work?! Erdelac’s prose is simply outstanding and he displays that in every single one of Angler in Darkness’ 18 stories. There is not a single lull in this collection and one of the things I love about Erdelac’s work is that he mixes in history and isn’t afraid to take on different eras for his settings. He also mines folklore and legends from other cultures, so each story is a breath of fresh air as he avoids most of the topics horror fans are already familiar with. Seriously, if you haven’t read anything by Erdelac yet, you need this collection. I will definitely be going back and checking out his novels, I have Andersonville waiting on my Kindle and am excited to check it out.

3. Garden of Fiends

A brilliant and original concept, Garden of Fiends captures the struggles of addiction and the horrors they inflict on those affected by it. Yes, it is dark and visceral, but with moments of hope throughout that make this a memorable collection of stories. Matthews’ has put together something truly special with Garden of Fiends and this is a must-read anthology for any horror fan. Featuring stories from Kealan Patrick Burke, Jessica McHugh, Max Booth III, Johann Thorsson, John F.D. Taff, Glen Krisch, Mark Matthews and Jack Ketchum.

4. Todd KeislingUgly Little Things

One of my earliest reviews for The Horror Bookshelf was Keisling’s Ugly Little Things – Volume One and I remember being completely absorbed by the wonderfully weird stories contained within that made me think of The Twilight Zone and Outer Limits. This release contains some of those stories as well as some of the newer ones I had missed. It has almost been 3 years since I first read these stories and upon my second read through, they still pack the same punch as when I initially devoured these stories. It’s hard to pick just one favorite, but the one that sticks with me the most is “Saving Granny From The Devil”. It’s a visceral and emotionally engaging story, the perfect blend of the sort of horrible things we go through in real life and the supernatural. It is a semi-autobiographical tale and the honesty Keisling shows here is probably why this one continues to stick with me years later. Then to top things off, it contains the brilliant novella The Final Reconciliation, which I read for the first time this year. This story follows the tribulations faced by The Yellow Kings after they meet up with the mysterious Camilla, who promises to deliver The Yellow Kings the success they are looking for. However, her help doesn’t come without strings attached. The Final Reconciliation made it to the preliminary ballot stage of this year’s Stoker Awards and if there is any justice, it will be on the final ballot as well. An essential addition to your library and my anticipation to read his upcoming work, Devil’s Creek, is off the charts.

5. Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi – BREATHE. BREATHE. 

A tireless champion of horror fiction, Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi breaks into the genre with her debut collection BREATHE. BREATHE. Her dark and vivid poetry and short stories will be sure to delight fans of dark fiction. What impressed me the most about Al-Mehairi’s work is the emotional power behind not just the poetry, but the stories as well. “Dandelion Yellow” is a heart-wrenching story that will haunt you long after you finish reading it. I had read it twice, once in the limited chapbook and then later in the extended ebook version, and each time it hit me like a ton of bricks. Another one of my favorites was “Destination: Valhalla Lane Loveless, Ohio”. This one had a really cool format that takes you into the households of a few couples on Valhalla Lane. I don’t want to spoil it for those who have yet to read it, but these little stories within the story all tie together and I thought the structure was an excellent choice and an intriguing plot. The story stands strong as is, but I would love to see this concept fleshed out into a longer piece. This is a strong debut effort and I can’t wait to see what other stories Al-Mehairi has up her sleeve!

Special Mention

Grady Hendrix with Will ErricksonPaperbacks from Hell

This book gets its own section because it was the only horror based nonfiction book I read this year (which I want to change that for 2018), but also because it is just that damn good. My review of Paperbacks from Hell is the entry right below this one if you’re interested in learning more about it, but the short version is that this is a book that needs to be on every horror fiction fan’s bookshelf. It’s an incredible book and I hope that there is another volume or similar project in the works, but that’s mainly because I’m greedy and need more!

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BOOK INFO

Length: 279 Pages

Publisher: Sinister Grin Press

Release Date: March 15, 2017

Review copy provided in exchange for an honest review as part of the Exorcist Falls Blog Tour

Exorcist Falls is the sequel to Janz’s novella Exorcist Road, which was originally released through Samhain Horror and appears in print again in this Sinister Grin edition. Exorcist Falls kicks off with the original novella, which is great for people like me that missed Exorcist Road the first time around or those who wish to re-read it to experience the story as a whole. Exorcist Falls draws inspiration from the towering classics that started America’s fascination with possession stories William Peter Blatty’s The Exorcist and Legion and starts with a quote from The Exorcist. 

Exorcist Falls opens with a priest detailing the history of a heinous killer known as the Sweet Sixteen Killer. He was never captured, but his murders were legendary, the damage inflicted on his victims indicated someone who possessed a lot of strength. The killer’s brutality and the fact that he is still prowling the streets has plunged the city into chaos. The priest almost seems to be unburdening himself of a terrible trauma and tells his story confessional style. He is Jason Crowder, a 29-year-old priest who is worried about people discovering that he is a coward. He became a priest not because of a great calling from God or to seek redemption for past sins, but because he was afraid of the world. He mentions he fell in love with a married woman named Liz, but first he must tell readers about a storm-swept night, when officer Danny Hartman showed up on his doorstep and asked for his help with a situation that proved to be the greatest test of both of their careers.

He tells Father Crowder to bring a Bible and anything else he may use in an emergency, which gives him pause. The emergency takes place on Rosemary Road, one of the most affluent neighborhoods in Chicago. As they are driving to the scene, it becomes clear to Crowder that something is greatly upsetting office Hartman. He learns the emergency is at his brother Ron’s house and that they had to lock up their 14-year-old son Casey in his room. He is one of the nicest kids you will meet, but there is something off about him. He attacked his own family, all of them looking beat up and sporting injuries that seem out of proportion for a young teenagers strength. He learns that his mentor Peter Sutherland has also been summoned to the home, which puts Crowder on edge. Danny’s partner Jack thinks that Casey is the Sweet Sixteen killer. Casey seems to have intimate knowledge of the Sweet Sixteen Killer’s crimes, but how could someone so young and seemingly innocent have this kind of first hand knowledge? While Crowder and Sutherland try to figure out a way to save Casey, they also contend with the mystery of the Sweet Sixteen Killer and are plunged into a horrific scenario that will test their faith.

By far the best scenes in this novel occur when Crowder and Sutherland are trying to exorcise the demon from Casey. Janz crafts vivid scenes that place readers right in the room and it isn’t a stretch to imagine the horrors that Crowder and Sutherland had to deal with. I could literally quote entire pages of these scenes to illustrate how great they are, but here’s a short one that describes Casey’s appearance: “The bones as malleable as a serpent’s. Black ichor has begun to seep from the thing’s mouth. It’s rapier teeth grin savagely through the viscous liquid, which reeks like boiling sewage.”  The demonic presence in this story is pretty damn frightening and even when it appears to have been subdued, it is able to slowly turn the characters against one another and attempts to use intimate knowledge it gleans from each of them to try to divide their ranks. While they went in as a united force, it doesn’t take long for cracks to appear and those scenes offer a change for Janz’s characters to stand out.

Exorcist Falls definitely puts a unique and new spin on the possession story genre, particularly in the second half. The way Janz chooses to continue the story is something I haven’t really seen done before. There is also a tense scene early on in this portion of the story that could have easily boxed the story into a corner, but Janz finds a clever way to continue the narrative and also somehow up the stakes of the last novel. Janz creates a cast of believable characters and does a great job especially with his portrayal of Ron. Right away, Ron comes across as arrogant, egotistical, and not very likable. Janz does a great job of conveying that through numerous scenes and that is where his character work shines. You can’t help but feel this guy’s arrogance ooze from the pages. Sutherland comes across as very authoritative and it is clear why Crowder is so impressed by him. Danny is an excellent character and without giving a lot away, he was the one I was the most impressed with. Janz does an incredible job making this character well-rounded and more than meets the eye. Janz also does a stellar job with Crowder’s character and throughout the course of these two novellas, he is put through the wringer but he never gives up. He struggles with doubts and his own abilities, but in the face of unimaginable horror and overwhelming odds, he is able to remain strong. However he does undergo a drastic change in Exorcist Falls, one that he struggles to reconcile with his personal beliefs.

While possession stories are a staple of the horror genre and have woven themselves into the fabric of society, I was never big on them. Sure, I can appreciate The Exorcist and other great stories that have used possession as a focal point of their plot, but they never really scared me or left any sort of lasting impression. However, that has changed with Janz’s Exorcist Falls. As a whole, it is a very strong work. While Exorcist Falls does have a few minor issues, I believe that Exorcist Road is a stone cold horror classic, worthy of stacking up among many of the greats. I remember when I first sat down to read Exorcist Falls and multiple times once the action really started picking up, I found myself stopping where I was and shaking my head because I couldn’t  believe the diabolical evil that Janz was able to conjure up. I kept telling my wife she needed to read it and knowing she probably wouldn’t get around to it, couldn’t help but describe the scenes I was reading. This is a book that I still can’t stop talking about and recommending to people, months after I first read it.

I don’t think it’s a spoiler to mention that the demon occupying Casey Hartman’s body is beyond evil and Janz does not hold back in the slightest with his portrayal of the demon that has taken up residence inside the boy. He says some truly vile things to rile up those present, and I honestly didn’t see that level of savagery coming. The highest compliment I can give this book considering my lukewarm reaction to most possession stories is that it provided me with enough nightmare fuel to last ten lifetimes. I am relatively new to Janz’s work and I’m still working my way through his back catalog, so I could be way off base, but in my opinion this is his most brutal work to date. I usually don’t comment on endings in my reviews, but this is one that needs to be read to be believed, I was left stunned!

Exorcist Falls is definitely one of my favorite works from Janz and in my opinion is an essential addition to your horror library. This story is packed with plenty of horrifying scenes, deliberate character work and a relentless pace that doesn’t let up until the last sentence. Exorcist Falls is another brilliant work from Janz, who is hands down one of my favorite horror authors and there is no doubt in my mind this will be near the top of my year-end list.

Rating: 5/5

LINKS

Jonathan Janz’s Official Website

Sinister Grin Press Official Website

Purchase Exorcist Falls: Amazon, Barnes & Noble,  or grab a copy from your favorite bookstore!

Use these hashtags to help spread the word about Exorcist Falls! – #ExorcistFalls #ExorcistRoad #SweetSixteenKiller
#JonathanJanz #SinisterGrinPress

Exorcist Falls Synopsis

Chicago is gripped by terror. The Sweet Sixteen Killer is brutally murdering young women, and the authorities are baffled.

When the police are called to an affluent home in the middle of the night, they learn that a seemingly normal fourteen-year-old boy has attacked his family. The boy exhibits signs of demonic possession, and even more troublingly, he knows too much about the Sweet Sixteen killings. Father Jason Crowder, a young priest assigned to the case, must marshal his courage in order to save the boy and the entire city from the forces of evil.

But this is a darkness mankind has never encountered before. It craves more than blood. And it won’t rest until it possesses Father Crowder’s soul.

Jonathan Janz’s brand new release brings the original novella that started it all—Exorcist Road—and a brand-new full-length novel (Exorcist Falls) together for a shattering experience in supernatural terror.

Praise for Jonathan Janz

“A perfect choice for those missing old-school Stephen King.”The Library Journal on Children of the Dark

“A horror storyteller on the rise.” —Booklist

“One of the best writers in modern horror to come along in the last decade. Janz is one of my new favorites.” —Brian Keene

“Jonathan Janz is one of the rare horror novelists who can touch your heart while chilling your spine. His work offers incisive characters, sharp dialogue, and more scares than a deserted graveyard after midnight. If you haven’t read his fiction, you’re missing out on one the best new voices in the genre.” –Tim Waggoner, multi-published author

“Fans of old-school splatterpunk horror–Janz cites Richard Laymon as an influence, and it shows–will find much to relish.” – Publishers Weekly on Savage Species

About Jonathan Janz

Jonathan Janz grew up between a dark forest and a graveyard, which explains everything. Brian Keene named his debut novel The Sorrows “the best horror novel of 2012.” The Library Journal deemed his follow-up, House of Skin, “reminiscent of Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House and Peter Straub’s Ghost Story.”

Since then Jonathan’s work has been lauded by writers like Jack Ketchum, Brian Keene, Edward Lee, Tim Waggoner, Ronald Kelly, and Bryan Smith; additionally, Booklist, Publishers Weekly, and The Library Journal have sung his praises. Novels like The Nightmare Girl, Wolf Land, Savage Species, and Dust Devils prompted Thunderstorm Books to sign Jonathan to an eleven-book deal and to give him his own imprint, “Jonathan Janz’s Shadow Side.”

His most recent novel, Children of the Dark, received a starred review in Booklist and was chosen by their board as one of the “Top Ten Horror Books of the Year” (September 2015-August 2016). Children of the Dark will soon be translated into German.

Jonathan’s primary interests are his wonderful wife and his three amazing children, and though he realizes that every author’s wife and children are wonderful and amazing, in this case the cliché happens to be true.

You can learn more about Jonathan at www.jonathanjanz.comYou can learn more about Jonathan at www.jonathanjanz.com. You can also find him on Facebook, via @jonathanjanz on Twitter, or on his Goodreads and Amazon author pages.

Want to Feature?

If you’d like to feature Jonathan Janz or review Exorcist Falls, contact Erin Al-Mehairi, publicist, at hookofabook@hotmail.com.

I am a bit late with my 2016 list as the first month of 2017 is just about over, but I still wanted to take a minute and share some of my favorite reads from this year. 2016 was a slow year for The Horror Bookshelf and I didn’t hit any of my goals that I made this time last year, but it was for a happy reason! The last few months of 2016 were some of the happiest in my life as my wife and I had our first child. The blog has slowed down considerably, but I do not plan on closing The Horror Bookshelf. I fell a bit behind, but I plan on starting 2017 off catching up on some reviews I owe and then hopefully getting back into a normal routine. I have met so many great people through this blog and it would take forever to name everyone, but I want to thank all of my friends, authors, and readers for sticking with me and offering me encouragement and support. My main goal for this site has always been to have fun, interact with other horror fans, and give back to the authors whose art has inspired me and helped me through some rough patches. That goal remains the same and I hope I can continue the blog for many more years.

Being that I fell a bit behind, some of the books featured here haven’t had their full reviews run yet, but they are on the way. I still want to recognize the authors and their works for helping make 2016 an incredible year for this horror fan. Here is a list of my favorite reads from 2016. I decided to go with a Top 15 for novels, a Top 10 for novellas and a Top 5 for Anthologies and Collections. Thanks for sticking with me this far and I hope you find some great new reads on this list!

Novels

1. Ronald Malfi The Night Parade 

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2. John C. Foster Mister White 

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3. Kristopher Rufty Desolation 

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4. Jonathan Janz Children of the Dark

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5. Justin Cronin The City of Mirrors

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6. Damien Angelica Walters Paper Tigers

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7. Michelle Garza and Melissa Lason Mayan Blue

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8. D. Alexander Ward Beneath Ash & Bone

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9. Hunter Shea The Jersey Devil

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10. Joe Hill The Fireman

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11. Kristin Dearborn Stolen Away

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12. Robert E. Dunn A Living Grave

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13. Stephen Kozeniewski Hunter of the Dead

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14. Joe Schwartz Stabco

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15. John Quick Consequences

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Novellas

1. Adam Howe Tijuana Donkey Showdown

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2. Glenn Rolfe Chasing Ghosts

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3. Josh Malerman A House At The Bottom of a Lake

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4. Mark Matthews All Smoke Rises

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5. Robert E. Dunn Motorman

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6. John F.D. Taff The Desolated Orchard

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7. Kristin Dearborn Woman in White

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9. David Bernstein Blue Demon

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10. Lucas Mangum Mania

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Anthologies and Collections

1. I Can Taste The Blood

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2. Gutted: Beautiful Horror Stories

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3. Richard Thomas Tribulations

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4. Brian Moreland Blood Sacrifices

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5. Glenn Rolfe Out of Range

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CHILDREN OF THE DARK Cover!

BOOK INFO

Publisher: Sinister Grin Press

Length: 293 Pages

Release Date: March 15, 2016

Review copy provided in exchange for an honest review as part of Children of the Dark Blog Tour

Last year I read Jonathan Janz’s Wolf Land, which was my introduction to the work of this incredibly gifted storyteller. That novel ended up landing in my top 10 favorite novels of 2015 and had me kicking myself for having not read his work sooner. So when Jonathan asked me to review his latest novel Children of the Dark, I was excited to see what he had in store with this novel. I am happy to say it is every bit as awesome as I expected!

Fifteen-year-old Will Burgess is about to have the worst summer of his life, despite winning the league championship. Will and his best friend Chris Watkins just finished up their freshman year and despite their inexperience, they are among the best baseball players in Shadeland High. Their athletic achievements place them on the radar of upperclassmen Brad Ralston and Kurt Fisher, who despise Will and Chris for attempting to steal the glory from them. The tension is only amplified by the fact Will is helplessly in love with Brad’s girlfriend Mia and Chris pines after Kurt’s girlfriend, Rebecca. But their run-ins and near brawls with the upperclassmen are the least of their worries.

One night when the trio of friends sneak off to swim in the creek at night with Mia, Rebecca and ice queen Kylie Ann, Mia sees something frightening in the woods of Savage Hollow. She claims she saw a face with huge, green eyes that glow in the darkness and teeth as long as knives leering at her from the woods. It just so happens that at that very same night they learn Carl Padgett, the notorious Moonlight Killer, has escaped from jail. His presence looms over the town of Shadeland. The day after the news broke of Padgett’s escape, Will notices the streets are deserted despite it being a sunny Saturday morning in June while on his way to Barley’s house. People were glued to their TVs and paralyzed with fear over the thought of a notorious serial killer on the loose. Once Will arrives at Barley’s house, Barley reminds Will of the local legend of the Wendigo, which stretches back thousands of years ago when Shadeland was home to the Algonquins and the Iroquois. This is the first mention of  “The Children”, whose inclusion in the story help fuel the creepiness and dread that permeates every page of the novel’s second half.  With the Moonlight Killer on the loose and reports of The Children surfacing again, Barley warns Will that things could get very bad. A storm is coming to Shadeland, the biggest one in years that is supposed to flood the area and cause extensive damage.

One night when Will and his friends head out to the woods to meet up with the girls at their treehouse, the unthinkable happens – Kylie Ann is snatched by a pale hand and carried off deep into Savage Hollow. Will rushes to save her but gets knocked out but not before catching a glimpse of the large frightening figure that had grabbed her. As the authorities scour the woods in search of Kylie Ann, they make a startling discovery. Someone or something is loose in the woods of Shadeland and once it is unleashed, the town descends into chaos and bloodshed and not everyone will survive.

When talking about what makes Children of the Dark such a great read, it is damn near impossible to limit it to just one thing. Janz excels at crafting vivid settings and characters that are bursting with personality and those traits are found throughout Children of the Dark. The opening scene of the baseball grudge match between Will’s team and Brad’s team is just one of the many scenes that really illustrate his talent at immersing readers into his stories. Janz gives readers important details about these characters in this scene and their personalities shine through in tiny moments, like when Chris and Will joke together on the mound. This is an impressive aspect of Janz’s writing because he makes you feel drawn to these characters and they appear fully formed in your mind in just a few pages.

The events that unfold in Shadeland are incredibly frightening and ripped straight from the depths of hell, but Janz does such an amazing job of bringing the town to life, I couldn’t help but feel a connection to it. Although they are vastly different stories aside from each town facing hellish scenarios, I got the same feeling reading about Shadeland as I did reading about Chester’s Mill in Stephen King’s Under The Dome. Something about the way both Janz and King describe the towns their stories take place in – from the residents down to popular haunts that they frequent – have a sort of realistic quality to them that instantly draws me in. Every day when I would get home from work, all I could think about was diving back into the world Janz created despite the horrors lurking just around the corner. One of the things that I loved about Children of the Dark is that it is set in the present day, but it has a timeless quality to it, similar to the horror film It Follows.

I loved the interactions between Barley, Will and Chris. They are a great group of friends and it is obvious their friendship has stood the test of time, considering they still hang out in their childhood treehouse that represents all the milestones of their friendship. Through these three, Janz perfectly captures that feeling of being a teenager where everything feels possible and looking forward to hanging out with your best friends. Their friendship also offers some comic relief as they tease each other unmercifully and Barley’s attempts at flirting are hilarious.

From a horror standpoint, Janz delivers not just one but many great antagonists. First up is “The Children”, who are some of the most frightening creatures I can remember reading about in recent memory. I don’t want to give away too much of what they are or what they are capable of, but when Janz unleashes them on Shadeland, horror fans definitely won’t be disappointed! Then there is Carl Padgett, widely known as “The Moonlight Killer”. He is a deranged serial killer influenced by Jack The Ripper and when you hear about him earlier through other characters point of view, he seems scary but when you finally see him in action…wow. His interactions with Will are tense and full of action as he plays a complex psychological game with him. He is incredibly strong and what makes him frightening is his total disregard for human life. He clearly relishes causing carnage and destruction and while “The Children” are probably the most frightening characters in this book, Padgett is every bit as bloodthirsty as they are.

I also loved Janz’s approach to the format of Children of the Dark. The novel blends a coming of age horror story with elements of the creature feature and slasher genres and Janz weaves these threads together seamlessly for one of the best reads of the year. There is a lot to like about Children of The Dark from adrenaline-fueled action scenes, plenty of twists, and a second act that left my jaw on the floor. Children of the Dark serves as a prequel to Janz’s serial novel Savage Species and while I haven’t read it yet, I am definitely planning on reading them as soon as possible. Children of the Dark is another stellar novel from Janz and an essential addition to the library of any horror fan!

Rating: 5/5

LINKS

Jonathan Janz’s Official Website

Sinister Grin Press Official Website

Purchase Children of the Dark: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or your favorite bookstore!

Children of the Dark (1)

Use these hashtags to help spread the word about Children of the Dark! – #ChildrenoftheDark #StandwithWill #JonathanJanz #SinisterGrinPress

Children of the Dark Synopsis

Will Burgess is used to hard knocks. Abandoned by his father, son of a drug-addicted mother, and charged with raising his six-year-old sister, Will has far more to worry about than most high school freshmen. To make matters worse, Mia Samuels, the girl of Will’s dreams, is dating his worst enemy, the most sadistic upperclassman at Shadeland High. Will’s troubles, however, are just beginning.

Because one of the nation’s most notorious criminals—the Moonlight Killer—has escaped from prison and is headed straight toward Will’s hometown. And something else is lurking in Savage Hollow, the forest surrounding Will’s rundown house. Something ancient and infinitely evil. When the worst storm of the decade descends on Shadeland, Will and his friends must confront unfathomable horrors. Everyone Will loves—his mother, his little sister, Mia, and his friends—will be threatened.

And very few of them will escape with their lives.

Praise for Children of the Dark

Jonathan Janz brings us a vicious tale of terror with the innocence of youth in a coming of age tale that should surely make Stephen King smile.” – Dave, Beneath the Underground

“Jonathan Janz has written the next definitive coming-of-age horror novel that is sure to be mentioned alongside those that came before it. Be on the right side of history and read it now, before it becomes a classic.” Patrick Lacey, author of A Debt to be Paid

Praise for Jonathan Janz

“Janz is the literary love child of Richard Laymon and Jack Ketchum (with a little Joe Lansdale DNA in the mix), with all the terror that implies. Try him out. You won’t be disappointed.” – Pod of Horror

“One of the best writers in modern horror to come along in the last decade. Janz is one of my new favorites.” –Brian Keene, best-selling author

“It’s the best of its kind I’ve read in years, such that I’d call it ‘The Quintessential Haunted House Novel.’ You’ve taken the old school traditions of the form which readers want and then have injected modern style, characters, and macabre, hard-edged mayhem into the guts of the story. THAT’S the way to do it, my friend!”Author Edward Lee on House of Skin

“Jonathan Janz is one of the rare horror novelists who can touch your heart while chilling your spine. His work offers incisive characters, sharp dialogue, and more scares than a deserted graveyard after midnight. If you haven’t read his fiction, you’re missing out on one the best new voices in the genre.” –Tim Waggoner, multi-published author

“Fans of old-school splatterpunk horror–Janz cites Richard Laymon as an influence, and it shows–will find much to relish.” – Publishers Weekly on Savage Species

About Jonathan Janz

Janz COD Tour

Jonathan Janz grew up between a dark forest and a graveyard, and in a way, that explains everything. Brian Keene named his debut novel The Sorrows “the best horror novel of 2012.” The Library Journal deemed his follow-up, House of Skin, “reminiscent of Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House and Peter Straub’s Ghost Story.”

2013 saw the publication of his novel of vampirism and demonic possession The Darkest Lullaby, as well as his serialized horror novel Savage Species. Of Savage Species, Publishers Weekly said, “Fans of old-school splatterpunk horror–Janz cites Richard Laymon as an influence, and it shows–will find much to relish.” Jonathan’s Kindle Worlds novel Bloodshot: Kingdom of Shadows marked his first foray into the superhero/action genre.

Jack Ketchum called his vampire western Dust Devils a “Rousing-good weird western,” and his sequel to The Sorrows (Castle of Sorrows) was selected one of 2014’s top three novels by Pod of Horror. 2015 saw the release of The Nightmare Girl, which prompted Pod of Horror to call Jonathan “Horror’s Next Big Thing.” 2015 also saw the release of Wolf Land, which Publishers Weekly called “gruesome yet entertaining gorefest” with “an impressive and bloody climax.” He has also written four novellas (Exorcist Road, The Clearing of Travis Coble, Old Order, and Witching Hour Theatre) and several short stories.

His primary interests are his wonderful wife and his three amazing children, and though he realizes that every author’s wife and children are wonderful and amazing, in this case the cliché happens to be true. You can learn more about Jonathan at www.jonathanjanz.com. You can also find him on Facebook, via @jonathanjanz on Twitter, or on his Goodreads and Amazon author pages.

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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wolf-land

BOOK INFO

Length: 314 Pages

Publisher: Samhain Horror

Release Date: November 3, 2015

Review copy provided in exchange for an honest review as part of the Wolf Land Blog Tour

Jonathan Janz is one of those authors who I have always heard great things about, both from other readers and horror authors, so I am a little embarrassed to admit that this is the first book of his I have read. After hearing tons of praise for his work and watching his excellent interview on Monster Men, I knew that I had to read one of his books. So when I was invited to join the blog tour for his latest Samhain Horror novel Wolf Land, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to get acquainted with his work. 

The novel focuses on a group of classmates from Lakeview gearing up for their ten-year high school reunion with a bonfire in the woods, a booze-fueled blowout just like when they were teenagers. Savannah is nervous about seeing her old flame Mike Freehafer, who has returned to town haunted by a devastating tragedy and a failed professional baseball career that ended their relationship. A trio of best friends – Weezer, Glenn, and Duane – are simply trying to have a good time by having a few drinks and maybe settling an old feud. As the party kicks into gear, it seems the worst thing the party-goers have to deal with is facing the inevitable awkwardness of their pasts.  However, those turn out to be the least of their worries when an ancient and terrifying evil is unleashed leaving several people dead or injured in the attack. The survivors’ lives are changed forever after witnessing the carnage at the bonfire and although they try to put the horrific events behind them, their nightmare is just beginning. Four of the survivors are beginning to change as the result of their injuries and their transformation will plunge the tranquil town of Lakeview into chaos and bloodshed.

Janz spends the opening moments of the novel introducing readers to his fairly large cast of characters and these opening scenes not only gives readers a good sense of their personalities, but allows them to feel like they are a part of Lakeview too. Just when you begin to settle in and prepare yourself for the horrors to come, Janz ramps up the chill factor with the introduction of the mysterious stranger at the reunion party. As people step forward to confront him and figure out what he is doing there, he begins speaking in ominous warnings, my favorite being this line: “I hear the worms, eager to writhe in your carcass”. I loved this approach to introducing the werewolf. Rather than having it show up and just start ripping everyone to shreds, Janz uses sentences like these to craft a sense of tension and dread that makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. 

The transformation process is one of the most important parts of any werewolf story and those scenes are handled expertly in Wolf Land. What makes them so fascinating is they are highlighted by small moments and differ from character to character. Each one of these characters has some sort of baggage in their past – not living up to potential, serious abuse, death and guilt. Janz does a great job of spending time with each one of these characters and looking at how they handle the changes of the werewolf curse – some embrace it while others are more reluctant to accept their new lives. It allows those who felt powerless throughout their lives to feel like they are finally in control, though they use that power and control in vastly different ways throughout the course of the novel. 

I like that Janz takes his time in showing how the survivors of the initial attack slowly begin to change. It isn’t the fast, stomach-churning transformation that immediately springs to mind when one thinks of werewolves, though there are some great scenes like that. It is a slow, gradual build-up starting when the characters notice they begin to heal at an astonishing rate. Then the changes start to manifest in other ways – a heightened sense of smell, hearing conversations from across the street or even something as simple as a look. These small scenes of change hint that something sinister is taking place and when the characters finally take on the form of the werewolf, readers are much like the characters in the book – mesmerized and unable to look away. They are handled with incredibly vivid detail and more often than not lead to blood-soaked scenes of terrifying violence.

Janz does an excellent job with creating a cast of characters that seem like the same sort of people you grew up with and that creates a connection with readers, even in the case of some of the more unsavory characters. However, what impressed me most, was the fearlessness Janz took with his characters. Without spoiling anything for readers, there were a few characters that were given pretty extensive backgrounds only to be torn to shreds by the werewolf relatively early in the story. I love when authors do that because it creates a very real sense of danger when no character is safe. Then there is Duane, who is known as “Short Pump” to virtually everyone in Lakeview. He is one of the main heroes in the novel, despite not fitting the standard definition of a hero. He is often mocked by just about everyone in town, is portrayed as shy and indecisive and despite his size and is relatively non-threatening. However, Duane undergoes his own transformation and challenges the perception that has followed him around his entire life by exhibiting an unexpected level of bravery.

Janz does an excellent job of portraying the small town of Lakeview and as a horror fan, I love these types of stories. There is something ominous about taking a town where seemingly nothing changes and everyone knows each other and plunging it into chaos by introducing the unknown. Janz paints a vivid picture through short sentences to convey the mundane nature of Lakeview like when Mike envisions his former classmates who used to hang out in the Burger King parking lot after school as adults still frequenting the same haunts, unwilling to let go of the past.

Janz also makes some interesting additions to the werewolf mythology. They are able to communicate telepathically, each one is connected to a sort of hive mind that allows them to understand each other without words. I also like the idea of there not being many werewolves and them preferring to keep their numbers small to avoid detection by any means necessary. Janz also crafts an interesting origin story on the werewolf phenomena involving a historical anecdote involving the Antonov sisters. It creates a plausible origin for not only the first werewolves but also how the mythical creatures made it to America. What makes it so interesting is that it sounds like a true legend. 

What makes Wolf Land such an enjoyable novel is Janz’s highly descriptive writing and his brutal depiction of the werewolf legend. These werewolves are incredibly brutal and there is no romanticism involved in their back story. These are not regal creatures of nobility or misunderstood creatures, they are bloodthirsty killing machines that do not hesitate to destroy everything in their path. Janz does give an interesting look at the humanity of the creatures though and some of them cling to that shred of their former selves to the bitter end. However, those driven by other motives relish their new powers and opportunity to kill at will. Despite the larger than life powers and presence of these monsters,  there are scenes where people fight back and it delighted the hell out of this horror fan. Reading about the sheer power of the werewolves in this novel, it would be logical to assume that any one who tries to resist would be torn apart in seconds flat. However, there are a few moments of sheer determination where some of the human characters are able to inflict a little damage of their own. 

The only complaints I had with Wolf Land is I would have liked to have seen more scenes with The Three, the mysterious group of original werewolves. There was a lot of potential for some interesting stuff there and while not including it doesn’t hinder the story, it would have been cool to learn more about their motives and what drives them. They seem to prefer smaller numbers, but there are others who have joined them. How do they pick and chose who joins them? We get a glimpse of their history through one of the survivor’s point of view, but the explanation seemed a little rushed. 

I have to be honest for a minute and admit that werewolves were never really my thing. I know that seems sacrilegious for a horror fan to say, but I was never all that frightened by them. They are scary enough I guess, but I was always more frightened and intrigued by other creatures. However, after reading Glenn Rolfe’s Blood and Rain and now Jonathan Janz’s Wolf Land, I am starting to change my stance on werewolves and am looking forward to reading more werewolf novels in the future. I was totally enthralled with Wolf Land from the beginning and there are a ton of tense, action-packed scenes that kept me on the edge of my seat. Make no mistake, Wolf Land is an incredibly violent story with copious amounts of blood and gore, but there is also a lot of human drama, humor and subtle hints of creepiness that help make this a stand-out werewolf story. Jonathan Janz is an incredible writer and after reading Wolf Land, I can see why so many horror fans love his work. I definitely consider myself a fan now and I look forward to catching up on his previous novels! 

Rating: 4.5/5

LINKS

Jonathan Janz’s Official Website

Samhain Horror Official Website

Purchase Wolf Land: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Samhain Horror or your favorite bookstore!

Wolf Land tour graphic

Use these hashtags to help spread the word about Wolf Land! – #WolfLand #werewolves #winterofwolves #JonathanJanz #HookofaBook

Wolf Land Synopsis

An unholy predator on the prowl!

The small town of Lakeview offers little excitement for Duane, Savannah, and their friends. They’re about to endure their ten-year high school reunion when their lives are shattered by the arrival of an ancient, vengeful evil. 

The werewolf.

The first attack leaves seven dead and four wounded. And though the beast remains on the loose and eager to spill more blood, the sleepy town is about to face an even greater terror. Because the four victims of the werewolf’s fury are changing. They’re experiencing unholy desires and unimaginable cravings. They’ll prey on the innocent. They’ll act on their basest desires. Soon, they’ll plunge the entire town into a nightmare. Lakeview is about to become Wolf Land. 

Praise for Wolf Land and Jonathan Janz

“One of the best writers in modern horror to come along in the last decade. Janz is one of my new favorites.” –Brian Keene, best-selling author

“It’s the best of its kind I’ve read in years, such that I’d call it “The Quintessential Haunted House Novel.” You’ve taken the old school traditions of the form which readers want and then have injected modern style, characters, and macabre, hard-edged mayhem into the guts of the story. THAT’S the way to do it, my friend!”-Author Edward Lee on HOUSE OF SKIN

“Jonathan Janz is one of the rare horror novelists who can touch your heart while chilling your spine. His work offers incisive characters, sharp dialogue, and more scares than a deserted graveyard after midnight. If you haven’t read his fiction, you’re missing out on one the best new voices in the genre.” –Tim Waggoner, author

Reminiscent of Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House and Peter Straub’s Ghost Story, this should please readers who appreciate a good haunting.” The Library Journal

“A 10-year high school reunion is the catalyst for lots of furry, toothy scares in this gruesome yet entertaining gorefest.” –Publishers Weekly

“Probably the best werewolf novel I’ve read in a decade.”- Pete Kahle, author of The Specimen

“If you like werewolves, you will think you have died and gone to heaven. Highly recommended.” –Confessions of a Reviewer

“This fast-paced read was a frenzy of carnality in epic proportions. Visceral and surreal, Janz has outdone himself with this newest title.” Nikki, Horror After Dark

“For years now, the werewolf has been hijacked by the shifter romance genre. Well, Jonathan Janz has claimed a bloody morsel back for the horror genre!” 2 Book Lovers Reviews

“Janz is the literary love child of Richard Laymon and Jack Ketchum (with a little Joe Lansdale DNA in the mix), with all the terror that implies. Try him out. You won’t be disappointed.” –Pod of Horror

“Jonathan Janz has created a realistic world and peopled it with characters that could be people you know then introduces a whole new werewolf legend to rip them to shreds. I highly recommend this relentlessly fast paced story. A hair raising 5 star read.” –Horror Maiden Book Reviews

About Jonathan Janz

JonathanJanz

Jonathan Janz grew up between a dark forest and a graveyard, and in a way, that explains everything. Brian Keene named his debut novel The Sorrows “the best horror novel of 2012.” The Library Journal deemed his follow-up, House of Skin, “reminiscent of Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House and Peter Straub’s Ghost Story.”

2013 saw the publication of his novel of vampirism and demonic possession The Darkest Lullaby, as well as his serialized horror novel Savage Species. Of Savage Species, Publishers Weekly said, “Fans of old-school splatterpunk horror–Janz cites Richard Laymon as an influence, and it shows–will find much to relish.” Jonathan’s Kindle Worlds novel Bloodshot: Kingdom of Shadows marked his first foray into the superhero/action genre.

Jack Ketchum called his vampire western Dust Devils a “Rousing-good weird western,” and his sequel to The Sorrows (Castle of Sorrows) was selected one of 2014’s top three novels by Pod of Horror. 2015 saw the release of The Nightmare Girl, which prompted Pod of Horror to call Jonathan “Horror’s Next Big Thing.” His newest release is Wolf Land, which Publishers Weekly called “gruesome yet entertaining gorefest” with “an impressive and bloody climax.” He has also written four novellas (Exorcist Road, The Clearing of Travis Coble, Old Order, and Witching Hour Theatre) and several short stories.

His primary interests are his wonderful wife and his three amazing children, and though he realizes that every author’s wife and children are wonderful and amazing, in this case the cliché happens to be true. You can learn more about Jonathan at www.jonathanjanz.com. You can also find him on Facebook, via @jonathanjanz on Twitter, or on his Goodreads and Amazon author pages.

Giveaway

Enter to win ONE (1) print copy signed by Jonathan Janz of WOLF LAND! Click the link to enter. There are several things you can do to get multiple entries each day. Forward any questions to Erin Al-Mehairi, publicist, at hookofabook@hotmail.com.

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/share-code/MjMxYWEzMGI1ZDE2MGYyYTgzYjk4NzVhYzhmMTdmOjI2/?