Posts Tagged ‘Sinister Grin Press’

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.

BOOK INFO

Length: 102 Pages

Publisher: Sinister Grin Press

Release Date: April 22, 2017

Review copy provided as part of Cut Corners Vol.3  Blog Tour

Since starting up The Horror Bookshelf, I have been lucky enough to discover a ton of quality small presses that are releasing quality horror and helping to keep the genre alive and well. I have a host of favorites, but one press that has been catching my attention as of late has been Sinister Grin Press out of Austin, Texas. I think the first time I discovered them was through reviewing Jonathan Janz’s stellar Children of the Dark . They host an impressive roster of authors – many of whom I consider among my personal favorites – and are one of those types of presses where I know I will love anything they release.

Cut Corners Vol. 3 is the latest installment in Sinister Grin Press’ Cut Corners series. Cut Corners is a collection of three stories from some of the biggest names in horror and this is my first journey into the collection.  I haven’t read any of the other volumes (yet!), but what I enjoyed about this volume is that it centers around timely topics in society. Whether it is our addiction to our technological devices or fascination with celebrity culture, there is an eerie amount of things that readers can recognize in the world around them.

Cut Corners Vol. 3 kicks off with a new one from Kealan Patrick Burke called “Andromeda”.  This story follows a girl named Hannah, who is glued to her cell phone almost constantly and seems to be more at ease finds within the virtual world than the one around her. She has a strained relationship with her mom, who doesn’t get her daughter’s attachment to her virtual life and tries her hardest to get Hannah to interact with her friends at school and experience her idea of a “normal” life. While arguing with her mom, she stumbles across an article that mentions something weird occurring in the Baltic Sea. She has an interest in weird phenomena, so she files the story away to read that night. It isn’t much later that she gets a bizarre text that she writes off due to having a number that used to belong to someone else. While hanging out with her friend Fiona, they begin to notice strange things happening around them, but find every reason to write them off as normal. However, it doesn’t take long for Hannah and Fiona that something is really off in their town and it will test the very boundaries of their sanity.

While all three of the stories in Cut Corners Vol. 3 are real treats for horror fans, “Andromeda” is easily my favorite. This is a tough one to talk about without spoiling some of the events that occur within, but there are a few stories that this reminded me of as I was reading it. There is nothing overly terrifying or bloody in “Andromeda”, but that doesn’t keep Burke from crafting some chilling moments that stick with you long after reading. What makes this story such a blast to read is the small, unsettling moments that Burke sprinkles throughout the story to indicate just what sort of danger Hannah and Fiona finds themselves in. Although there are some truly disturbing and creepy moments that readers are able to see, what makes “Andromeda” stand out is the use of dialogue (the message from Hannah’s mother…yikes!)  and ordinary situations being warped into something strange. I love stories like that. It builds a sense of dread and confusion as you try to piece together the mystery unfolding on the page. Burke conjures up a foreboding atmosphere that permeates every page of “Andromeda” and kept me glued to this story until the very end!

Bryan Smith’s “The Barrel” is another story that utilizes an intriguing mystery to snare readers, and “The Barrel” starts with some strangeness right off the bat. Martin Sanchez is a recently divorced man whose life is now in shambles, with nothing eventful happening in his life since the divorce. That is until he wakes up one morning to find a mysterious black barrel in his back yard when he lets his dogs out. The barrel is seemingly ordinary, but when his dogs notice it, they are in full-on attack mode and growl at it. Martin’s imagination runs wild at what could be contained in the barrel and he struggles with how to handle his bizarre new discovery.

I love how Smith ties The Barrel’s arrival into social media with the use of #blackbarrel, the pull of a social media game almost impossible to resist. Also, I can’t tell you how many times I have encountered something strange and used the internet to figure out what the hell it is. Though if a mysterious black barrel showed up in my yard, I don’t think that would be my first reaction! While the subject matter of the two are wildly different, I couldn’t help but think of the final scene from Seven while reading this story. What makes this story interesting is that for a bulk of it, the reader’s imagination is the focal point of the story. There could be literally anything in that barrel, and being a horror story, I’m sure readers will conjure up all sorts of wild and imaginative scenarios. While this is the strength of the story in my opinion, it is also part of the minor issue I had with the story. After conjuring up all sorts of wild scenarios, the reveal was a bit of a let down. Don’t get me wrong, Smith still does some original things after the reveal, but I was hoping for something a little different. That being said, “The Barrel” is still an enjoyable story.

The final story in the collection comes from Ray Garton, the only author to appear in every installment of Cut Corners. “Afterparty” follows the life and career of Jarrett Baffometti, the biggest pop star in the world. Cy Weintraub is his manager and gained wealth through working with some of the biggest stars in the entertainment business. Jarrett’s career has been going off the rails as of late, racking up D.U.I’s and other arrests and falling down a rabbit hole of drugs. Cy knows that things are bad and has seen it with other young stars he has managed, but he feels that something is different with Jarrett’s situation. When he arrives at Jarrett’s mansion, he discovers a surreal scene that proves his suspicions were correct. Garton then takes readers back five years to show how Jarrett’s career really launched after attending a mysterious cocktail party at the request of his manager who promises that if he just does what the hosts say and makes a good impression, he will be set for life. Sounds easy enough, and Jarrett is no stranger to partying. However, when he shows up at the mansion, he realizes that nothing could have prepared him for that night.

Cy is an interesting character, possibly even more so than the mysterious group that has such an interest in Jarrett’s career. Without getting too much into the plot, let’s just say it’s hard to pinpoint his exact allegiances. I wasn’t quite sure how I would feel about this story going in, but by the end, I was blown away. Garton throws a little bit of everything into this story and yet it all works to make for a delightfully strange and creepy story. Garton’s story is a little more extreme than the others and is filled with drugs, sex, violence and the allure of fame. I loved the little twists added within the story. While the group’s motivations and goals seem fairly straightforward, there is an aspect of their plans that I didn’t anticipate. “Afterparty” works extremely well as a short story, but I can’t help but think of the potential it has as a novel. I would love to learn more about this mysterious group and the process behind their agenda.

While I will always love losing myself in horror novels, I am finding myself being drawn to shorter horror fiction lately, whether it be short stories or novellas. This probably has to do with my new schedule, but there is also something to be said for a shorter format for horror. While I love expansive world-building and watching the terror of these stories slowly unfold, there is something visceral about the immediate impact of the short story. Cut Corners Vol. 3 is an excellent collection that is a perfect introduction for readers who are new to horror or for die-hard horror fans looking for a quick read from some of the best writers in the genre!

Rating: 4/5

LINKS

Sinister Grin Press’ Official Website

Purchase Cut Corners Vol. 3: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Sinister Grin Press, or grab a copy from your favorite bookstore!

Use these hashtags to help spread the word about Cut Corners, Volume 3! – #CutCorners3 #horrorshorts #SinisterGrinPress

Cut Corners, Volume 3 Synopsis

Late, dark nights are perfect for reading surreal and terrifying tales from some of the best story tellers in the horror business. Grit your teeth, sit by the fire pit, and be prepared to possibly not return from underneath the spell of their writing prowess, but if you do, we’re certain you’ll have a sinister smile to share. All these modern stories have an element of thought-provoking surprise and style.

“Andromeda” –Kealan Patrick Burke

A  grim story of a teen girl hooked to her cell phone that will make you think outside of your comfort level.  Kealan Patrick Burke is a hauntingly lyrical and original writer of horror that will leave you breathless.

“The Barrell” – Bryan Smith

When a surprise barrel shows up out of nowhere on the back stoop, and the dogs start to bark at it uncontrollably, Martin becomes very suspicious and intrigued.  Bryan Smith is a versatile and horrifying author who will leave you squeamish and chuckling.

“Afterparty” –   Ray Garton

Jarrett is getting famous on the entertainment scene, but what will he have to do to remain in the industry?  Brought to you by Ray Garton, a master of explicit detail and tense horror that entrances readers and doesn’t let them go.

About The Authors

Kealan Patrick Burke

Born and raised in a small harbor town in the south of Ireland, Kealan Patrick Burke knew from an early age that he was going to be a writer. The combination of an ancient locale, a horror-loving mother, and a family of storytellers, made it inevitable that he would end up telling stories for a living. Since those formative years, he has written five novels, over a hundred short stories, six collections, and edited four acclaimed anthologies. In 2004, he was honored with the Bram Stoker Award for his novella The Turtle Boy.

Kealan has worked as a waiter, a drama teacher, a mapmaker, a security guard, an assembly-line worker, a salesman (for a day), a bartender, landscape gardener, vocalist in a grunge band, curriculum content editor, fiction editor at Gothic.net, and, most recently, a fraud investigator.

When not writing, Kealan designs book covers through his company Elderlemon Design.

A number of his books have been optioned for film. You can find him at http://www.kealanpatrickburke.com.

Bryan Smith

Bryan Smith is the author of numerous novels and novellas, including Depraved, Slowly We Rot, The Killing Kind, and 68 KILL. The film adaptation of 68 KILL recently won the Midnighters audience award at SXSW. Bryan lives in TN with his wife Jenn and numerous animals. Visit his home on the web at thehorrorofbryansmith.blogspot.com and find him on his author fan page on Facebook.

Ray Garton

Ray Garton is the author of the classic vampire bestseller Live Girls, as well as Scissors, Sex and Violence in Hollywood, Ravenous, and dozens of other novels, novellas, tie-ins, and story collections. His new Moffet & Keoph investigation Vortex, the novella Crawlers, and his collection Wailing and Gnashing of Teeth are available for Kindle. He has been writing in the horror and suspense genres for more than 30 years and was the recipient of the Grand Master of Horror Award in 2006.  He lives in northern California with his wife Dawn where he is at work on a new novel.

Want to Feature?

If you’d like to review Cut Corners, Volume 3 by Burke, Garton, or Smith, please contact Erin Al-Mehairi, Sinister Grin publicist, at hookofabook@hotmail.com.

Chasing Ghosts cover

BOOK INFO

Length: 102 Pages

Publisher: Sinister Grin Press

Release Date: August 1, 2016

Review copy provided in exchange for an honest review as part of the blog tour for Chasing Ghosts

Anyone who has been following my blog knows that I am a huge fan of Glenn’s books. I have been following his work ever since his debut The Haunted Halls and it seems like he just keeps getting better with each book. So when Chasing Ghosts was announced, it instantly shot to the top of my list of most anticipated books. As soon as you crack the cover on Chasing Ghosts, you will notice the novella is dedicated his to Richard Laymon, Jack Ketchum, Brian Keene and Jonathan Janz. If you are a fan of any or all of those writers, this should give you a good idea of what to expect and it definitely captures the spirit of those writers.

“Rumors were usually born from some kind of truth”

The novella opens introducing readers to Jesse Gerrard, a bit of a rebel who occasionally gets into trouble with his friends who dare each other to do crazy stunts like blowing up M80’s at school. Jesse knows his father is cheating on his mother and it is weighing heavily on his mind. Trying to flee his tense situation at home, Jesse grabs his coat and storms out of the house to meet up with his buddies Davey and Luke at the old Cobb place. While his dad attempts to stop him and talk to him about the incident with the M80’s, he tells his dad he is “chasing ghosts” and then he is gone. Those are the last words he will ever say to his father.

When they get to the Cobb house, it doesn’t take long for the dares to begin and each one trying to prove their toughness. Davey dares Jesse to pick up a rotting rabbit carcass, which he does with no problem. The smell is stomach churning, but Jesse’s ego won’t let him look like a chicken in front of the new kid. However, Jesse takes it a step further and chucks it through a window into the now abandoned home. Glenn builds great tension by slowly incorporating the legends that swirl around the Cobb house, like that Zachariah ate his own baby and their reputation as a group of redneck cannibals.

Luke instantly is filled with fear and is trying to convince Davey and Jesse to run, but while they are bickering and before they can move a muscle, they hear an ominous grinding noise coming from inside the Cobb House. Jesse thought they were out there all alone, but that sound indicates otherwise. They duck for cover, but once again, Jesse’s desire to prove his toughness leads him to go right up to the house. Even though his friends are scared, all he can think of is showing off and he climbs inside the house! I know I am a horror fan, but if I am being honest, I am a scaredy-cat in real life. There is no way in HELL I would be going inside that place if I was Jesse!

It doesn’t take much longer for all hell to break loose. I won’t get into what happens, but I was reading this and my jaw dropped because it is so early in the story and Glenn just goes straight for the jugular. It is right around this moment I knew Chasing Ghosts was going to be one hell of a ride!

Following that opening, we are left to ponder the fate of the group of friends in the woods and the story shifts its focus to another group of characters. Jack, Ian, and Connor are members of the punk band The New 45 and they are on their way out to a gig at a secluded cabin in the woods where a wild party is taking place. While they complain about having to play in the middle of nowhere, they are planning to have a great show and have fun partying until all hours of the night.

After meeting the band we are introduced to Jesse’s parents Derek and Heather, who are dealing with the fallout over their son’s disappearance. Heather found out about Derek’s girlfriend Melody and the stress of the affair and their son’s disappearance has left the couple’s marriage in shambles. Derek is beaten down by the emotional toll of losing his son and while his wife holds out hope he is still alive, he knows that he is gone. After their fight, Derek goes out on his bike and finds himself rocketing toward Cobb Road. He remembered his son liked to come out here and cause Zachariah trouble. As he is traveling down the road, he sees a strange person crossing the road and a frightening encounter ultimately leads him to the cabin where the band is playing.

When the band’s lead singer goes missing, Derek can’t help but think if the strange person he saw out on the road. He joins Connor and Ian as they search for their friend and they will find themselves battered, bloody, and doing whatever they can to survive the hell they have found themselves in.

One of my favorite scenes in Chasing Ghosts is when Derek’s best friend Mike fills Melody in on the wild history of the Cobb’s and the woods they called home. Now, I don’t know how other readers will feel about it, but I loved that Rolfe gradually explained the legends surrounding the woods. By giving out a little bit of the history at a time, it helps amplify the mystery that haunts the pages of this story. Mike’s retelling gives readers a more complete history of the Cobb’s and sets a very creepy atmosphere for the back half of the novella. The way Mike tells the story with perfect pacing, it feels like the sort of campfire ghost story that has you ready to leap out of your skin at the smallest noise.

Glenn’s characterization is truly exceptional in Chasing Ghosts. Glenn manages to introduce a variety of interesting characters and none of them feel like they get lost and the action never lags, even as we jump from different characters view points. Even the minor characters pop off the page, like the scraggly hipster that first greats the band at the cabin. The depiction of Jesse and his friends relationship is perfect and kind of reminded me of the kids in Stranger Things. They get each other to do stupid dares like screwing around at the Cobb Place and blowing up M80’s at school. They have no problem teasing each other, but you get the sense that their friendship is incredibly strong and that they would do anything for each other. Out of all of those characters though, Luke was definitely my favorite. He is one of the youngest characters in the book and is subjected to horrors that would break most anyone regardless of age. Despite all of the stuff he endures throughout the novella, he never gives up and fights for his life every step of the way.

I also loved the way Glenn portrays the killer that attacks the band and Derek out in the woods. He is over six feet tall and a physically imposing figure. Connor tries to attack him, but when he hits him full speed, he does little more than make the guy stumble. The group’s run-in with this guy made me think of classic movies like Friday the 13th, where even the strongest character couldn’t even phase Jason with their best effort. Connor, Ian, and Derek try to take him on and inflict an extreme amount of punishment, but it hardly phases him and still kicks their asses. This fight scene was one of my favorite moments of the book, unrelenting action that is pumping with adrenaline. There are other aspects about the Cobb family that I thought were extremely well done, but I don’t want to spoil it for those who haven’t read the book yet. Trust me though, you won’t be disappointed! More than once I got chills while I was reading this.

Honestly, Chasing Ghosts is one of the scariest books I have read in a while and it may just be Glenn’s darkest work yet. Once you get to the back half of the novella, it is pretty much a barrage of action and extremely bleak situations. I mean lines like this: “I could see his brains on the leaves. I could see his brains on the leaves” are devastatingly effective and only scratch the surface of the blood-soaked brutality that plays out in the woods surrounding the infamous Cobb property. There is also one scene with one of the characters in the woods towards the end of the book that honestly made me wince because I could only imagine the pain that character was experiencing.

I remember reading a blog post about this one and Glenn mentioned how he wanted to capture the tone of the Leisure Books that he was a huge fan of and I feel he does that in spades. Chasing Ghosts has the feel of a vintage horror novel that is chock full of blood, guts, and pulse-pounding action. I love all of Glenn’s different types of stories, but it was awesome to see him go back the extreme horror that was on display in his debut. This was a blast to read and as a horror fan, Chasing Ghosts has everything I could want in a great horror story. I grew up around the woods and while it can be a peaceful place during the day, as a young kid who loved horror movies, the setting was terrifying at night. Rolfe definitely taps into that fear with Chasing Ghosts, which is definitely my favorite novella of the year. I highly recommend grabbing a copy and I can’t wait to see what Glenn comes up with next!

Rating: 5/5

LINKS

Glenn Rolfe’s Official Website

Sinister Grin Press’ Official Website

Purchase Chasing Ghosts: Amazon, Barnes & NobleSinister Grin Press, or grab a copy from your favorite bookstore!

Chasing Ghosts tour graphic

Use these hashtags to help spread the word about Chasing Ghosts! – #ChasingGhosts #Rolfed #WoodsPeople

Chasing Ghosts Synopsis

The Cobbs were ignorant woods-people that died off and left nothing to fear. Locals in Naples, Maine think they know this story. But are they wrong?

Luke Howard and his mom move to Naples and Luke’s eager to make new friends. When Jason and Davey invite him out to the abandoned Cobb place for a game they call “chasing ghosts,” he’s ready and willing. However, the boys will come to discover that some vacant houses are better left to die alone.

Meanwhile, a punk band set to play in a rented cabin out of town feel eyes upon them. Somebody’s watching, but not their usual audience. When their lead singer strays too far from the group and disappears, his band mates set out in the darkness to find him.

Police Chief Walt Henderson is about to discover that there’s more going on out in the woods of his town than he ever imagined.

Chasing ghosts is more than just some children’s game.

Praise for Glenn Rolfe

Things We Fear is a compulsively readable tale of obsession and dark suspense, with one of the creepiest villains I’ve encountered in recent years.” — Tim Waggoner, author of The Way of All Flesh

“Glenn Rolfe’s new thriller is addictive. A quick, compelling read. Rolfe creates tension with a minimal amount of words. His characters are so well-drawn they come alive (before they die).” — Duncan Ralston, author of Salvage

 “Fast paced and tense, with one of the most interesting monsters I’ve read about in recent times.” — Patrick Lacey, author of A Debt to Be Paid

“Glenn Rolfe is quickly establishing a name for himself as one of a number of excellent new writers to ensure the horror genre is kept alive and well.” — Catherine Cavendish, author of Dark Avenging Angel

“There is a definite old school feel about this novella (Things We Fear). It isn’t an over the top gore fest. Instead, what we have is a tense, psychological thriller that builds steadily towards a fitting climax.” – Adrian Shotbolt, at Ginger Nuts of Horror

Glenn Rolfe Biography

Glenn Rolfe author photo

Glenn Rolfe is an author, singer, songwriter and all around fun loving guy from the haunted woods of New England. He has studied Creative Writing at Southern New Hampshire University, and continues his education in the world of horror by devouring the novels of Stephen King, Jack Ketchum, Hunter Shea, Brian Moreland and many others. He and his wife, Meghan, have three children, Ruby, Ramona, and Axl. He is grateful to be loved despite his weirdness.

He is the author the novellas, Abram’s BridgeBoom TownThings We Fear, and the forthcoming, Chasing Ghosts; the short fiction collection, Slush; and the novels, The Haunted Halls and Blood and Rain.

His first novella collection, Where Nightmares Begin, was released in March 2016.

Media? Wish to Feature?

If you are a member of the media or a blogger that wishes to review Chasing Ghosts or feature Glenn Rolfe, contact Erin Al-Mehairi, publicity and marketing, Sinister Grin Press, at hookofabook(at)hotmail(dot)com.

mayan blue cover

BOOK INFO

Publisher: Sinister Grin Press

Length: 149 Pages

Release Date: May 25, 2016

Review copy provided in exchange for an honest review as part of the blog tour for Mayan Blue

Mayan Blue is the debut from authors Michelle Garza and Melissa Lason, a twin sister writing duo who have been accurately dubbed “Sisters of Slaughter”. I can’t speak for their short fiction (which I definitely want to track down), but Garza and Lason prove they are certainly not afraid to pile on the violence with Mayan Blue.

Garza and Lason open with a strong, pulse pounding introduction that is only a small sampling of the craziness that is unleashed throughout the brisk pace of Mayan Blue. A priestess is in the process of committing a ritual sacrifice in order to seal away something evil that is plaguing her village. She is in a subterranean tunnel with two local boys and all three of them bear the same blue pigment known as “Mayan Blue”. They seal a set of large stone doors with a circular seal that is etched with the story of the fall of their civilization and their blood is the only offering strong enough to seal the unimaginable terror from the outside world.

In the present day, Professor Lipton is a man who has overcome all odds by beating cancer and is now on the verge of a discovery that could re-write the history books. He finds himself in caverns that have been untouched for centuries and is alone when he makes his discovery of a disc inscribed with markings that proves his hypothesis and will silence the members of the scientific board who have doubted him for so long.

Professor Lipton’s associate Wes along with students Alissa, Kelly, Dennis and Tyler are racing to meet up with the professor and help him recover an artifact that proves the Mayans may have settled in Georgia. They drive for hours before arriving at a dead-end where they have to set out on foot. There is no cellphone signal and they are without a GPS, which any horror fan knows is a recipe for disaster.

The group arrives at their meeting point, but find that Professor Lipton’s camp is deserted. However, they discover Professor Lipton has the proof that he needs. Once they set their eyes on the disc, they are in grave danger. Wes tells the group that the disc tells of the destruction of the Mayan society and tries to scare the group with his depiction of the Mayan underworld. They all laugh it off and think of it as nothing more than a spooky campfire story. Later that night when they hear cries coming from the caves, the group thinks the professor may be in trouble. They descend deep into the earth to try to find the professor and what they uncover defies belief and rattles them to their core. They realize that it wasn’t just famine and disease that led the Mayans to flee their home, it was something far worse.

Mayan Blue is a strong debut that hints at an extremely bright future for the The Sisters of Slaughter. What makes this novel stand out is the original premise and extensive world building that went into Mayan Blue. A bulk of the story takes place in the Mayan underworld of Xibalba and they bring this world into frightening focus with nightmarish descriptions. I don’t want to describe it too much because exploring Xibalba as the story unfolds is part of the enjoyment of Mayan Blue.  There is also an added level of mythology that makes this land of fear and death a great setting for a horror story.  I don’t want to spoil it, but let’s just say that the simple act of setting foot in the land of Xibalba is dangerous, even if you remove the ghoulish creatures that thirst for blood and human flesh.

Garza and Lason place their characters through the wringer and they definitely prove that they are far more than ordinary people once they are faced with death. These characters step up to the challenge of survival in a place that honestly, would probably find me curled up in a corner somewhere. They undergo not only physical torture but psychological torture as well. Once the group finds themselves in Xibalba, they must undergo trials to prove their worth and attempt to buy them more precious moments of survival.

I love history, so I was impressed with the amount of research that Garza and Lason did regarding the different Mayan customs and legends. I remember learning a little bit about the Mayans in a college history course, but we never learned too much about their religion and beliefs that made up their culture. I was always interested in learning about the ancient Greek, Roman and Egyptian gods, so I enjoyed learning about the various dark figures that populate the Mayan underworld. Garza and Lason did a great job of weaving these figures into a truly frightening horror story that is unlike anything I have read in a while.

The Sisters of Slaughter live up to their moniker with blood-soaked scenes of brutality and some pretty nightmarish creatures. Mayan Blue doesn’t just feature one big, bad monster but rather a whole army of them that love nothing more than to delight in the pain and torment of the main characters. Ah-Puch’s description is awesome and ripped straight out of the stuff nightmares are made of. He is the Lord of Death and his body is a bloated corpse with the head of an owl and he wears a necklace of disembodied eyes. It was refreshing to read about an entity that hasn’t really been tackled before in horror fiction and after learning more about his abilities, it is amazing Ah-Puch hasn’t made an appearance in horror sooner! While many think death would be a way to escape, Ah-Puch has the ability to continue tormenting his victims even after they have died. Then there are Wayobs, which are disturbing half-man/half-owl shape-shifting demons. I got the chills more than once reading about these creatures and the creative ways they attack their victims. Seriously, this novel is loaded with so many terrifying creatures, it is a horror fan’s dream!

Mayan Blue’s brisk pacing make this a novel that is hard to put down and there isn’t a single moment where the story seems to lag. It feels weird to call a novel like Mayan Blue a fun book to read because of all of the gruesome and hellish visions that Garza and Lason put on display, but I had a blast reading Mayan Blue! The scares here aren’t necessarily the kind that will make you jump, it is more a feeling of dread as you follow the characters journey through a seemingly inescapable hell. Mayan Blue blends plenty of action and vintage horror to create a blockbuster of a summer read. I loved Mayan Blue and it is obvious that the Sisters of Slaughter are capable of some truly brutal, creative and engaging stories. I can’t wait to see what this extremely talented duo come up with next!

Rating: 4.5/5

LINKS

Michelle Garza and Melissa Lason Facebook Page

Sinister Grin Press’ Official Website

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

Mayan Blue tour graphic

Use these hashtags to help spread the word about Mayan Blue!- #MayanBlue #Mayans #legends #HookofaBook #SinisterGrin

Mayan Blue Synopsis

Xibalba, home of torture and sacrifice, is the kingdom of the lord of death. He stalked the night in the guise of a putrefied corpse, with the head of an owl and adorned with a necklace of disembodied eyes that hung from nerve cords. He commanded legions of shapeshifting creatures, spectral shamans, and corpses hungry for the flesh of the living. The Mayans feared him and his realm of horror. He sat atop his pyramid temple surrounded by his demon kings and demanded sacrifices of blood and beating hearts as tribute to him and his ghostly world.

These legends, along with those that lived in fear of them, have been dead and gone for centuries. Yet now, a doorway has been opened in Georgia. A group of college students seek their missing professor, a man who has secretly uncovered the answer to one of history’s greatest mysteries. However, what they find is more than the evidence of a hidden civilization. It’s also a gateway to a world of living nightmares.

Praise for Mayan Blue

From the outset, Garza and Lason let the blood spill, plunging their small cast of characters into the depths of Mayan hell. There’s plenty of action to go around as the group is confronted with a number of horrors, from the labyrinthine and booby-trapped maze of the newly discovered Mayan temple to the angry gods and their owl-headed, sharp-clawed servants.” – Michael Hicks, Author of Convergence

“Their short works are wonderful to read. However this book proves that they can tackle longer works without missing a beat.” – Tom, GoodReads

”These two show no quarter dragging the characters–and by extension, the reader–into the depths of the Mayan version of Hell. There’s vividness to the scenes they craft that made me want to make sure I was reading in full daylight, or at least with most of the lights on.” – John Quick, Author of Consequences 

Biography

MelissaMichelle

Melissa Lason and Michelle Garza have been writing together since they were little girls. Dubbed The Sisters of Slaughter by the editors of Fireside Press. They are constantly working together on new stories in the horror and dark fantasy genres. Their work has been included in FRESH MEAT published by Sinister Grin Press, WISHFUL THINKING by Fireside Press, WIDOWMAKERS a benefit anthology of dark fiction.

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BOOK INFO

Publisher: Sinister Grin Press

Length: 235 Pages

Release Date: May 15, 2016

Review copy provided in exchange for an honest review as part of the blog tour for The Invasion

My wife and I watch a ton of true crime shows – The Investigation Discovery channel is usually always on when we are watching TV – so when I read the synopsis for The Invasion I was hooked. This novel utilizes a real-life scenario and when you throw in the fact that the novel is loosely inspired by true events, I knew I was in for an adrenaline-filled read!

McBean’s The Invasion starts off with a bone chilling introduction that sets the stage for the story. Obviously you know that something terrible is about to unfold, but McBean utilizes an unassuming everyday task and assigns it a creepy quality that sets off warning bells in your imagination even before you step foot into the house located on 6 Hooper Crescent. The house is the home of Debra Hillsboro, a romance novelist who has gathered her family and friends at her home to celebrate Christmas. Debra is going through a bit of a rough patch lately as her books aren’t selling like they used to and she is going through a divorce.

Even with all the turmoil swirling around her life, her home is the one place Debra can feel safe. Debra has lived in the Carmela house for almost 30 years, spending a majority of her life and writing career in the home. However, as Debra and her guests settle in for the night, her illusion of safety is shattered when a group of six strangers break into the home and take everyone hostage. The apparent leader of the group – who calls himself Black Metal Freak –  tells Debra they are there simply to rob her and that if her and her guests cooperate, everything will be okay. However, as the night unfolds, it becomes obvious that the group has sinister ulterior motives and things only get worse when the real leader – Mr. Fear – arrives. Facing the group of intruders, Debra and her family must dig deep within themselves in a struggle to survive the most frightening night of their lives.

The Invasion is a pretty bleak and violent read and there is a lot to enjoy for both horror and thriller fans. There are a lot of things McBean does well in The Invasion, starting with great descriptions of the house, which is the focal point of the novel as both a setting and a character. The house is given a great deal of characterization and Debra even refers to it by name. Also the scene setting where we first get a good look at the house, it is described almost like a flesh and blood person.

Built in nineteen-sixty-nine, the four-bedroom single story split-level had been well-loved, but, like its resident of twenty-seven years, she was starting to look her age.

Making the house a character was a great touch and I like that based on the amount of action that occurs in each room, readers are given an equivalent amount of memories that took place there. For instance, the lounge is a central location in the novel and where a lot of violence occurs and we learn that this was Debra’s safest place. The place where she went to read, entertain guests, and even work through some of the challenging spots in her writing. McBean does a great job of weaving these memories throughout the story to bring the setting into vivid focus and to highlight how all of these years of important memories will now be completely overshadowed by a night of violence and depravity.

The house even has an intriguing history complete with has dark rumors of ritual sacrifices, human burials and cult gatherings. A lot of these rumors trace back to the creepy producer that owned the house before Debra and he seemed to be hiding something. This sort of ambiguity about the house’s past helps build the atmosphere of the novel because it raises the question of if the house is just a house or a beacon of sorts for evil. It is probably nothing more than a coincidence, but when you also take into account the hair-raising dream Debra’s brother Peter had years ago, it really makes you question things.

The events of the novel build slowly at first with quiet, indistinguishable noises that can be attributed to just about any everyday occurrence and the stress weighing on Debra and her family blinds them to the fact that something may be wrong. These simple actions – a click of a door or thinking you hear people talking in another room – aren’t scary by themselves, but McBean uses these small moments to build tension since readers know something sinister is lurking within the pages of The Invasion.

McBean wastes little time in introducing the strangers that invade Debra’s home. At first glance, these strangers seem like an ordinary robbery team. However, throughout the course of The Invasion, this group proves they are anything but ordinary. They are a nihilistic group known as the “Fear Squad” and the members use code names like Black Metal Freak, Mad Vixen, Night Crawler, Child of Osiris, and Raven Queen. The group seems to be very methodical despite their young age and overactive behavior, but their sense of entitlement to do whatever they want occasionally makes them sloppy. While their plans hit snags along the way, they make up for any mistakes with appalling savagery.

I thought the portrayal of the Fear Squad was perfect. It is interesting that the Fear Squad are all tech savvy (almost to their detriment) and that the origins of their group are born from that reliance on technology. It is clear the members of the group have impulse control problems and a sense of detachment from reality, which influences their sadistic nature. It is hard to talk about the main thing that makes the Fear Squad such an interesting group without spoiling parts of the novel, but I will just say that the group has a very interesting origin story and I think there could be a whole novel dedicated to just how the group got started. The only real complaint I had with The Invasion is that at times the members of the Fear Squad seemed kind of flat. They were well-developed as a group, but as individuals they sometimes faded into the background and were kind of overshadowed by Mr. Fear.

Mr. Fear is the mysterious leader of the Fear Squad and while the collective as a whole serves as a very interesting threat, there is something about Mr. Fear that makes him standout. He has a sort of charisma that demands respect from the other members of the group and they idolize him because they think he has special powers. Now, I don’t want to spoil too much about his claim to fame within the group, but I can’t help but wonder if there is a bit of truth to his claims. I personally think he is just a sick man who uses his charismatic qualities to control the group, but there are a few instances where he seems to exhibit the very power he claims to possess. Is he just a normal man or is there something more lurking underneath the surface?

While McBean does a great job cultivating a horrific threat with his characterization of the Fear Squad, I really enjoyed his characterization of Debra and her family. The Invasion is a richly characterized piece and getting to know the intimate details about the characters through flashbacks and their interactions with each other makes you emotionally invested in their fight for survival. They also go through a transformation as the events unfold and it helps make the characters more dynamic. Paul is portrayed as being fairly timid, a stark contrast to his bold and brave boyfriend that isn’t afraid to speak his mind. However, as the night unfolds, Paul exhibits a bravery and strength that he didn’t even know he had in him. Debra’s niece Taryn is probably my favorite character of the novel. Even in the face of paralyzing fear, she shows a lot of bravery and intelligence in her attempt to stop the Fear Squad. She is resourceful and arms herself with household items and fights back against the group with everything she has.

I also liked that the story was contained to just one location – the Carmela house. By keeping the events limited to one location and one night, McBean crafts a claustrophobic atmosphere that transports readers into the story and ratchets up the tension. I also liked the format McBean used to break up the novel. Rather than go with traditional chapters, he breaks the story up by what room the events take place in. Sometimes that makes for short, punchy chapters which are great for the pacing of the novel. It is a small touch, but I liked the inclusion of the map at the beginning of the story. It is nice to be able to flip back to the map and track the events of the story as they unfold and makes for an engaging reading experience.

The Invasion is a terrifying novel that offers a glimpse at real-life horror and some of the darkest behaviors exhibited by people. Home invasions are a terrifying crime and while we may not consciously think about it, it is a fear that is universal. Our homes are supposed to be places where we feel safe and the idea of a stranger shattering that feeling make for an absolutely frightening premise that McBean captures perfectly. While there are plenty of home invasion stories out there, McBean puts a pretty unique spin on the genre that helps this one stand out. Highly recommended!

Rating: 4/5

LINKS

Brett McBean’s Official Website

Sinister Grin Press’ Official Website

Purchase The Invasion: Amazon (U.S.), Amazon (Australia), Amazon (U.K.), Barnes & Noble, Google Play, Kobo, or grab a copy from your favorite bookstore!

Invasion tour graphic

Use these hashtags to help spread the word about The Invasion! – #TheInvasion #homeinvasion #cults

The Invasion Synopsis

It was supposed to be a quiet end to a long day: five close-knit family and friends settling in for some much-needed sleep after coming together for an early Christmas party.

Instead, it’s the beginning of a shocking night of brutality when six intruders break into the sprawling residence of Debra Hillsboro, a middle-aged romance novelist with a fierce devotion to her loved ones and a strong kinship with her home of almost thirty years.

Armed with smartphones and a modern brand of madness, the intruders – an internet-age cult disconnected from humanity and addicted to causing fear and mayhem – have come to the secluded property for one purpose: to terrorize, and ultimately kill, everyone inside all while filming their heinous crimes.

Outnumbered and cut off from the outside world, the terrified occupants find themselves trapped in a fight for survival as a once place of safety is turned into a deadly maze of darkened rooms and forbidding hallways. On this sweltering summer night, they must somehow find a way to escape before the cult turns the beloved home into a house for the dead.

Praise for Brett McBean

“McBean’s voice is one that should be heard – a hint of Laymon and Koontz, yet distinctly his own.” —Brian Keene, author of The Rising and Terminal

“Brett McBean is as brash and brutal as a young Jack Ketchum. He visits the dark rooms inside us all.” — Scott Nicholson, author of The Manor and The Farm

The Invasion, by Brett McBean, is a startlingly bleak home invasion story, but one that is wonderfully written. McBean relies on his characters and atmosphere to bring the biggest scares, along with the frightening threat of home invasion that many readers will bring to the reading all by themselves.” — Michael Patrick Hicks, author of Convergence

Brett McBean Biography

Brett_McBean

Brett McBean is an award-winning horror and thriller author. His books, which include The MotherThe Last Motel and Wolf Creek: Desolation Game, have been published in Australia, the U.S., and Germany.

He’s been nominated for the Aurealis, Ditmar, and Ned Kelly awards, and he won the 2011 Australian Shadows Award for his collection, Tales of Sin and Madness.

He lives in Melbourne with his wife, daughter and German shepherd.

Find out more at: brettmcbean.com

 

Today’s post on The Horror Bookshelf comes from David Bernstein, who is currently promoting his diverse and highly entertaining short story collection A Mixed Bag of Blood (review), which is out now through Sinister Grin Press. I loved reading this collection, the diversity of the stories guarantee that there is never a dull moment throughout the 86 pages that make up A Mixed Bag of Blood. David’s post takes a look at the troubling trend of characters making baffling choices in a story and how authors can write themselves into a corner. I can definitely relate to what David is saying. It happens more with the TV shows that I watch, but I am sure I get on my wife’s nerves when I say something along the lines of,  “You know, if those characters would have just done this….”. Usually its a solution that would have cut an hour-long episode down to roughly ten minutes.

Before I turn over the blog to David, I want to thank him and Erin Al-Mehairi of Hook of a Book Media & Publicity for having me on the tour!

Don’t Treat Your Audience Like They’re Morons

By David Bernstein

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Have you ever read a book or watched a movie where the characters did something so ridiculously stupid you turned off the television or chucked the book across the room? Characters making stupid decisions seem to be happening more and more. I like to call it dumbed down writing, or writing yourself into a corner. More and more writers are treating their audiences like morons and I’m tired of it.

For example, I was reading a book, and really into it, when the characters did something that I just couldn’t get past. A bad guy was holding a gun on three people. He’d been after them for most of the book. One of the three people managed to clobber him on the head with a pipe and knocked him out. His gun slid a few feet away. Now what do you think happened next? Did one of them pick up the gun? Shoot the bad guy dead? Tie him up? Nope. They simply turned and ran away. And you know what the bad guy did? He woke up, picked up his gun and the chase continued. I was like—WHAT? Why wouldn’t the people at least pick up the gun. Why leave it there? Even if they were anti-gun nuns who would never kill. Why just run away? Because the author wanted to continue the story and had written himself into a corner and said to himself that the audience will buy it because they’re stupid.

Another case: I was watching a TV show where a bad guy was holding a gun on two people. One of the two people had a German Shepherd with him. The bad guy also had a friend with him, but with no gun. One of the good guys manages to grab a shovel and knock out the friend of the gunman. The dog is sicced on the gunman and latches onto his arm and starts gnawing on him. The gun is dropped and tumbled a few feet away. So what do the characters do? Pick up the gun? Knock out the guy who is fighting the dog? Tie up the bad guys? Nope. Not only do the good guys run away, the dog owner calls the dog off and tells it to run. Why? Because the writer wanted to continue the story. Why didn’t one of the good guys pick up the gun? Help the dog? They could have called the cops while keeping the gun trained on the guy. The show should’ve ended there. And do you know what the bad guy did after the good guys ran away? He picked up the gun and shot one of the fleeing good guys. Then the chase continued. For me, this is a complete turn off. I will stop watching a TV show that does this. It tells me the writer, editor, producer and all else involved think very little of the viewers.

This may seem like a rant, and it is, but I would also like to get people to stop accepting this sort of bullshit. Make a writer work and believe that his audience is intelligent. And as writers, we shouldn’t be doing this sort of garbage. Cheap thrills to progress a story that should’ve ended at that point are silly. And if you don’t want to end your story, then don’t write scenes like the above. Treat your readers/viewers like they have a functioning brain. I’d sooner believe a man can fly or lift a house over his head before making the kind of decisions the above characters made.

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LINKS

David Bernstein’s Official Website

Sinister Grin Press’ Official Website

Purchase A Mixed Bag of Blood: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or your favorite bookstore!

A Mixed Bag of Blood tour graphic (1)

Use these hashtags to help spread the word about A Mixed Bag of Blood! – #AMixedBagofBlood #DavidBernstein #shortstories #horrorstories

A Mixed Bag of Blood Synopsis

From a man seeking vengeance for a dead loved one, to a monster lodged in a person’s nose, to starving vampires and samurai battling zombies, a bully meeting his gruesome demise, along with prostitutes being sacrificed, a boy who refuses to stop swearing, and the consequences of one man’s night of unprotected sex comes a dark and disturbing collection of sinister tales filled with dread, bloodshed, humor and the bizarre.

This is a Mixed Bag of Blood.

Praise for A Mixed Bag of Blood

“Dave Bernstein let his mind wander and his pen write where I know you’ll want to read. With an introduction by Kristopher Rufty, this is a reason to stay at home and read on a pleasant Saturday afternoon like I did.” –Cat After Dark

 Praise for David Bernstein

“David Bernstein delivers a fast-moving tale of desire and destruction that gives new meaning to the words, ‘Be careful what you wish for.’ Relic of Death twists reality and will leave you reflecting on your own personal Achilles heel long after you finished reading…” —Allan Leverone, author of Mr. Midnight

“A fascinating, unpredictable, ever-shifting tale of greed and desperation. Highly recommended!” —Jeff Strand, author of Pressure

“Fast-paced, cinematic, and excellent. Horror fans gather around, it’s time for another chilling tale from David Bernstein.”  —Keith Deininger, author of Within and Ghosts of Eden

“A harrowing, brutal thriller, Skinner is Bernstein at his best!” —Peter Giglio, author of Shadowshift

About David Bernstein

david bernstein

David Bernstein is originally from a small town in Upstate New York called Salisbury Mills. He now resides in NYC and misses being surrounded by chainsaw-wielding maniacs and wild backwoods people that like to eat raw human flesh. He’s grown used to the city, though hiding bodies is much harder there. He is the author of Amongst the Dead, Damaged Souls, The Tree Man, Witch Island, Relic of Death, Apartment 7C and the forthcoming Episodes of Violence. David writes all kinds of horror, from hair-raising ghost stories to gore-filled slashers and apocalyptic tales of terror. He loves hearing from his readers. You can reach him on Facebook, athttp://www.facebook.com/david.bernstein.3. Visit him at his website: davidbernsteinauthor.blogspot.com email dbern77@hotmail.com, or on Twitter at @Bernsteinauthor.

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BOOK INFO

Publisher: Sinister Grin Press

Length: 86 Pages

Release Date: March 1, 2016

Review copy provided in exchange for an honest review as part of the blog tour for A Mixed Bag of Blood

My introduction to David Bernstein’s work was through his bleak 2014 novel The Unhinged. I remember reading this novel and being blown away by Bernstein’s depiction of extreme horror with antagonists capable of truly horrific brutality. While the engaging and inventive plot is what initially drew me into The Unhinged, the things that I really enjoyed was Bernstein’s unflinching approach to putting his characters through the wringer and his ability to keep readers guessing. Just when it seemed clear where the story was going, Bernstein would throw a curveball that took the reader to totally unexpected places.

That same sense of unpredictability is found in Bernstein’s short story collection A Mixed Bag of Blood. A Mixed Bag of Blood is a relatively short collection at 86 pages, but Bernstein manages to take readers on a thrilling journey by offering up ten stories that run the gamut from straightforward horror to bizarre, gross-out stories that will make your stomach churn! I enjoyed the collection as a whole, but the following stories were clear-cut favorites.

“The Trojan Plushy” – This story follows Brad Raling, whose family was killed by a drunk driver who gets off the hook due to breathalyzer recall. After spending weeks in a tailspin of despair, Brad gets a visit from his neighbor Miss Conrad, the neighborhood recluse. She brings him a pie that contains an ominous note that offers him the possibility to get the justice he craves. The set-up for this story seems like your standard revenge tale, but Bernstein throws in plenty of unexpected twists that make for an exciting and violent opening to the collection that grips you right away. I don’t want to give too much away about what happens, but Bernstein crafts an ending that packs a powerful, emotional impact.

“Eaten Un-Alive “- This is one of my favorite stories in A Mixed Bag of Blood. Here, Bernstein lays out a scenario where vampires around the world are struggling to survive as zombies begin to overrun civilization. This story details the journey of a vampire named Remington as he scours the countryside in a desperate attempt to survive. Just when Remington is about to give up his search for the blood he desperately needs, he stumbles upon a house that offers the first sign of life in days. While this seems to be the answer to Remington’s problems, the situation is not all that it appears to be.

I absolutely loved the premise of this story and it combines two of my all-time favorite horror creatures – zombies and vampires. Even though Remington is a monster, he is bursting with personality and you are instantly drawn into his journey. It was also interesting to read this type of story told from the perspective of another undead character as it poses a whole different set of challenges than a traditional zombie story.

“Invasion” – As soon as I read the first paragraph of this one and figured out that it was an alien story, I was instantly sold. However, this isn’t your typical alien invasion story and that is part of what makes this such an interesting story. The aliens mechanism for world domination is a modified cockroach and when it crosses paths with a terrifying young boy named Timmy, the results are shocking. The ending of “Invasion” is incredibly cool, but I have warn you, it will probably make you itch for days!

“Samurai Zombie Killer” – This is probably my overall favorite story from A Mixed Bag of Blood. This is the story of Kenji Matsuko, a samurai who is tasked by his master on his deathbed to confront his brother Makito, who is dabbling in the dark arts. The title pretty much says it all when it comes to what to expect from this story. I have read a ton of zombie stories and although I can appreciate the straight forward takes on these creatures, I love when an author manages to do something original with the mythology. While I can appreciate “Samurai Zombie Killer” as a standalone short story, I wish Bernstein would flesh out this story into a full-length novel or novella. I never would have thought of pairing zombies and samurais together in a million years, but now that I have read this story, I can’t imagine how someone didn’t write one sooner!

“Small Town, Big Trouble”  – There is so much to love about this story, I don’t know where to begin! “Small Town, Big Trouble” takes a small town that has been hiding a sinister secret for generations. Four families are tasked with protecting the town and its secrets, but years of stress and guilt drive two men who belong to the inner circle to take a stand in an attempt to end the horror once and for all. I don’t want to spoil too much of this story, but Bernstein manages to take a well-known legend and craft a highly enjoyable short story that once again shows off his imagination.

In addition to these stories, Bernstein also introduces readers to a sentient booger, a cautionary tale about buying things at yard sales, and a slew of other creepy stories. What I like the most about this collection is that it shows off Bernstein’s versatility as an author. Bernstein unleashes a variety of styles throughout A Mixed Bag of Blood, so there is a story in there for all horror fans regardless of what type of horror they are into. Some of these styles weren’t what I would normally read on my own – “The Booglin” and “Pottymouth” immediately come to mind – but in the context of this collection, they work extremely well and I found them to be enjoyable reads. It was a lot of fun reading this collection and not really knowing what to expect from one story to the next.

While the stories collected in A Mixed Bag of Blood are wildly diverse in terms of style and subject matter, one thing that is consistent throughout the collection is a sense of fun that makes this a collection that is very easy to finish in one sitting. So, if you are willing to be a little adventurous in trying out different styles of horror, I highly recommend grabbing a copy of A Mixed Bag of Blood!

Rating: 4/5

LINKS

David Bernstein’s Official Website

Sinister Grin Press’ Official Website

Purchase A Mixed Bag of Blood: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or your favorite bookstore!

A Mixed Bag of Blood tour graphic (1)

Use these hashtags to help spread the word about A Mixed Bag of Blood! – #AMixedBagofBlood #DavidBernstein #shortstories #horrorstories

A Mixed Bag of Blood Synopsis

From a man seeking vengeance for a dead loved one, to a monster lodged in a person’s nose, to starving vampires and samurai battling zombies, a bully meeting his gruesome demise, along with prostitutes being sacrificed, a boy who refuses to stop swearing, and the consequences of one man’s night of unprotected sex comes a dark and disturbing collection of sinister tales filled with dread, bloodshed, humor and the bizarre.

This is a Mixed Bag of Blood.

Praise for A Mixed Bag of Blood

“Dave Bernstein let his mind wander and his pen write where I know you’ll want to read. With an introduction by Kristopher Rufty, this is a reason to stay at home and read on a pleasant Saturday afternoon like I did.” –Cat After Dark

 Praise for David Bernstein

“David Bernstein delivers a fast-moving tale of desire and destruction that gives new meaning to the words, ‘Be careful what you wish for.’ Relic of Death twists reality and will leave you reflecting on your own personal Achilles heel long after you finished reading…” —Allan Leverone, author of Mr. Midnight

“A fascinating, unpredictable, ever-shifting tale of greed and desperation. Highly recommended!” —Jeff Strand, author of Pressure

“Fast-paced, cinematic, and excellent. Horror fans gather around, it’s time for another chilling tale from David Bernstein.”  —Keith Deininger, author of Within and Ghosts of Eden

“A harrowing, brutal thriller, Skinner is Bernstein at his best!” —Peter Giglio, author of Shadowshift

About David Bernstein

david bernstein

David Bernstein is originally from a small town in Upstate New York called Salisbury Mills. He now resides in NYC and misses being surrounded by chainsaw-wielding maniacs and wild backwoods people that like to eat raw human flesh. He’s grown used to the city, though hiding bodies is much harder there. He is the author of Amongst the Dead, Damaged Souls, The Tree Man, Witch Island, Relic of Death, Apartment 7C and the forthcoming Episodes of Violence. David writes all kinds of horror, from hair-raising ghost stories to gore-filled slashers and apocalyptic tales of terror. He loves hearing from his readers. You can reach him on Facebook, athttp://www.facebook.com/david.bernstein.3. Visit him at his website: davidbernsteinauthor.blogspot.com email dbern77@hotmail.com, or on Twitter at @Bernsteinauthor.

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.