Author: Joe Donley

Epeolatry Book Review: The Rules of the Road by C.B. Jones

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Title: The Rules of the Road 
Author: C.B. Jones
Genre: Horror
Publisher: Ionosphere Press
Release Date: 24th August, 2021

Synopsis:

Do you ever wonder why it is you sometimes see a single shoe on the side of the road? What happens if you don’t hold your breath when you pass a cemetery? Why should you pay careful attention to that strange speed limit sign, the one that reads 67 MPH?

When an amateur journalist encounters a mysterious radio program while driving alone one late night, he is presented with a set of instructions with potentially fatal consequences. After escaping with his life, obsession takes hold and he is determined to find out who is behind the broadcast and who else it has affected. His investigation leads him to speak with travelers and truckers, vagabonds and vacationers, models and rock stars, each with their own sinister encounter with the strange program. His search draws him into a world of deadly discovery from which there is no turning back.

So settle down and buckle up. Stay alert for the signs to survive. Do not adjust that dial. Prepare to be a lucky—or unlucky—listener to “The Rules of The Road.” What will the static settle on for you?

Have you ever stumbled upon some random AM radio station while driving through the middle of nowhere? Extra points if you were traveling along a long desolate road in the middle of the night. Usually, it’s just some lower power signal of a fire and brimstone preacher, or some local sports talk broadcast. But there are always urban legends of some strange recording of ominous noises or some pirate signal broadcasting some guy ranting about chem trails and the secret cabal of lunch ladies across the Midwest.

Well, Rules of the Road by C.B. Jones stirs up those same feelings of unease through a collection of short stories wrapped in one framing story, a la Clive Barker’s Books of Blood. With each story you get another piece of the puzzle, another clue as to what is going with this strange radio broadcast sharing, ‘Rules of the Road’, which, if you don’t follow, may have deadly consequences. I’ll give you one example. If you come across a single shoe lying beside the road, you must stop and place one of your own socks within. What happens if you don’t do this? Probably something bad, really bad. So, why take a chance? What’s one less sock?

This book is an unsettling trip through the horrors of modern Americana. Discover the things that scare those who call the road home, like missed cellphone calls, social media, and the loss of self, Geo Metros (super creepy), mysterious phone numbers on bathroom stalls, and the ever-pernicious boiled peanuts!

My personal favorites from this are ‘Landslide’ and ‘What’s Your Name?’ Both take wonderfully unexpected turns.

So, if you like books similar to Brotherhood of the Wheel by R.S. Belcher or the Lost Signals anthology edited by Max Booth III, be sure to check out this new release from up-and-coming horror author C.B. Jones.

out of 5 ravens.

Available from Amazon.

Epeolatry Book Review: Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

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Our reviews may contain affiliate links. If you purchase something through the links in this article we may receive a small commission or referral fee. This happens without any additional cost to you.

Title: Mexican Gothic
Author: Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Genre: Horror
Publisher: Del Ray
Release Date: 15th June, 2021

Synopsis: After receiving a frantic letter from her newly-wed cousin begging for someone to save her from a mysterious doom, Noemí Taboada heads to High Place, a distant house in the Mexican countryside. She’s not sure what she will find—her cousin’s husband, a handsome Englishman, is a stranger, and Noemí knows little about the region.   

Noemí is also an unlikely rescuer: She’s a glamorous debutante, and her chic gowns and perfect red lipstick are more suited for cocktail parties than amateur sleuthing. But she’s also tough and smart, with an indomitable will, and she is not afraid: Not of her cousin’s new husband, who is both menacing and alluring; not of his father, the ancient patriarch who seems to be fascinated by Noemí; and not even of the house itself, which begins to invade Noemi’s dreams with visions of blood and doom. 

Her only ally in this inhospitable abode is the family’s youngest son. Shy and gentle, he seems to want to help Noemí, but might also be hiding dark knowledge of his family’s past. For there are many secrets behind the walls of High Place. The family’s once colossal wealth and faded mining empire kept them from prying eyes, but as Noemí digs deeper she unearths stories of violence and madness. 

And Noemí, mesmerized by the terrifying yet seductive world of High Place, may soon find it impossible to ever leave this enigmatic house behind.

I’m not sure what to expect going into this book. Mexican Gothic got a ton of positive press and was nominated for the 2020 Superior Achievement in a Novel Bram Stoker Award. But, I wasn’t interested at first. Not sure why. Then, after a little convincing from some friends (I did my best to avoid spoilers), I finally convinced myself to give it a try. I suggest that you readers do the same; go into this one blind. The less you know, the more you’ll enjoy.

But, if you do want a little taste of what’s in store, here’s what I have to say…

So, our protagonist, Noemi, travels to a remote estate in Mexico to check on her cousin. There, she meets the residents of the old family estate. Of course, the family’s fortune is haunted by a bloody past. What secrets hide beneath the deteriorating walls? Will Noemi save her cousin or get pulled into the intrigue herself? 

It’s a bit of a slow burn. Silvia (can I call her Silvia?) luxuriates in the gloomy descriptions of the spooky, and somewhat familiar, gothic settings. But once things start to wrap up, the end comes at a blistering pace.

Think Crimson Peak crossed with Haunting of Hill House and Dracula with a touch of horrifying moldy mansion. All of this is topped with a healthy dose of Hispanic culture.

I give this   out of 5 ravens.

Available from Amazon and Bookshop.

Epeolatry Book Review: Creation of Chaos, Vol III: 13 Nightmarish Visions by Pete Altieri

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Title: Creations of Chaos, Vol III: 13 Nightmarish Visions
Author: Pete Altieri
Genre: Horror, Short Story Collection
Publisher: Blunt Force Press
Release Date: June, 2021

Synopsis: A family gets together for their final Thanksgiving dinner and each person at the table wants someone else to die. A man wakes up drenched in blood in his girlfriend’s apartment with the police beating on the door and her corpse cooling in the bedroom. Four friends take a train ride that goes 666 miles an hour headfirst into an inferno. If an old, mute grave digger at an asylum weeps for the dead who have no one to mourn for them, who is crying in the cemetery at his funeral? What horrors are awakened when grave bells are ringing in the cemetery on the Day of the Dead? 

A chilling collection of 13 short stories of horror and suspense from author, Pete Altieri, includes the novella, A Dreadful Life. This also includes “October House”, and “Carnival of Atonement”, two previously published short stories with different endings.

I love a good collection of bone-chilling stories, and this one does not disappoint. Pete Altieri knows how to horrify, disgust, and shock. Some of the stories are ultra-gory hack and slash showcases, while others are wild ideas developed in new and exciting ways.

My favorite within the collection is “The 666 Express”, about a group of friends who are on a maiden train voyage which travels from Dallas to Denver in one hour. Coincidentally, the train runs 666 miles per hour along the rails at blistering speeds, and infernal shenanigans ensue.

Just like any other collection, some stories are hit or miss. But this one had more hits than most collections out there. You won’t regret one minute spent within the pages of Altieri’s horrifying yarns.

I give this horror-gem collection  out of 5 ravens

Available from Amazon and Bookshop.

Epeolatry Book Review: Fiends in the Furrows, ed. David T. Neal & Christine M. Scott

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Title: Fiends in the Furrows
Author: Various, ed. David T. Neal & Christine M. Scott
Genre: Horror, Short Story, Folk Horror
Publisher: Nosetouch Press
Release Date: Sept, 2018

Synopsis:

The Fiends in the Furrows: An Anthology of Folk Horror is a collection of nine short stories that hew both to the earthy traditions and blaze new trails in Folk Horror.

Fans of Folk Horror, as well as those unfamiliar with it, will find horrors galore in these stories. Themes of rural isolation and insularity, paranoia, mindless and monstrous ritual, as well as arcane ceremonies clashing against modern preoccupations run through these stories. Nosetouch Press is proud to bring The Fiends in the Furrows: An Anthology of Folk Horror to horror enthusiasts everywhere.

FEATURING:

Coy Hall | “Sire of the Hatchet”

Sam Hicks | “Back Along the Old Track”

Lindsay King-Miller | “The Fruit”

Steve Toase | “The Jaws of Ouroboros”

Eric J. Guignard | “The First Order of Whaleyville’s Divine Basilisk Handlers”

Romey Petite | “Pumpkin, Dear”

Stephanie Ellis | “The Way of the Mother”

Zachary Von Houser | “Leave the Night”

S.T. Gibson | “Revival”

Review:

Okay. So, I love some good folk horror. Give me rural cults sacrificing to corn gods–a la ‘Children of the Corn,’ et al. A few of my favorite movies fit this genre: Midsommar, Wickerman (both versions), Blair Witch, Viy, The Witch, The Ritual, Lair of the White Worm. These films vary widely in quality, but all are a treat. Notice that many of these are recent big hit movies which garnered a lot of attention. So, there is contemporary interest in this genre, and I am among those hungry for collections like Fiends in the Furrows.

A friend from my writing group introduced me to this anthology. He’d selected Steve Toase’s story “The Jaws of Ouroboros” for us to study. I went into this story knowing absolutely nothing, and now I am frantically looking for Toase’s other work. It was amazing. Not since my first reading of Nathan Ballingrud’s “Atlas of Hell” was I so blown away. Just like Ballingrud, Toase builds a terrifying setting filled with dread and the supernatural. The price of this book is worth it just for this one story.

There is also a story by HorrorTree’s very own Stephanie Ellis! “The Way of the Mother” is a creepy yarn that is a mix of Wickerman and Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery”. There are ultra visceral and emotional images in this one. Give it a shot!

The remainder of the collection is hit or miss, but all are worth your time. I intend to pick up a copy of the follow up anthology: The Fiends in the Furrows II: More Tales of Folk Horror. (https://www.amazon.com/Fiends-Furrows-II-Tales-Horror/dp/1944286209/)

I give this anthology out of 5 ravens

Available from Amazon and Bookshop.

Epeolatry Book Review: Night of the Mannequins by Stephen Graham Jones

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Title: Night of the Mannequins
Author: Stephen Graham Jones
Genre: Horror
Publisher: Tordotcom
Release Date: 1st September, 2020

Synopsis: Award-winning author Stephen Graham Jones returns with Night of the Mannequins, a contemporary horror story where a teen prank goes very wrong and all hell breaks loose: is there a supernatural cause, a psychopath on the loose, or both?

We thought we’d play a fun prank on her, and now most of us are dead.

One last laugh for the summer as it winds down. One last prank just to scare a friend. Bringing a mannequin into a theater is just some harmless fun, right? Until it wakes up. Until it starts killing.

Luckily, Sawyer has a plan. He’ll be a hero. He’ll save everyone to the best of his ability. He’ll do whatever he needs to so he can save the day. That’s the thing about heroes—sometimes you have to become a monster first.

Sawyer has a plan for one final summer prank. What’s the worst that could happen? This book answers that question; bringing a mannequin to a movie theater leads to the murder of Sawyer’s friends, and only he can save those still alive.

This fun read had me guessing all the way through. I consider Stephen Graham Jones a master of horror, especially the slasher genre. He skirts along tropes and plays with them like favorite toys. Also, his writing style is conversational and comforting, even when describing gruesome violence. It’s like sitting in a pub with Jones telling you a story over a couple beers.

I’ve read a handful of Jones’s works, and none have been disappointing. I plan to work my way through his full catalogue. This is an author worth studying. He knows his craft and he knows how to unnerve his readers.

I give this one 4 out of 5 stars.

Available from Amazon and Bookshop.

Epeolatry Book Review: The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones

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Title: The Only Good Indians
Author: Stephen Graham Jones
Genre: Horror
Publisher: Gallery/Saga Press
Release Date: 14th July, 2020

Synopsis:

The creeping horror of Paul Tremblay meets Tommy Orange’s There There in a dark novel of revenge, cultural identity, and the cost of breaking from tradition in this latest novel from the Jordan Peele of horror literature, Stephen Graham Jones.

Seamlessly blending classic horror and a dramatic narrative with sharp social commentary, The Only Good Indians follows four American Indian men after a disturbing event from their youth puts them in a desperate struggle for their lives. Tracked by an entity bent on revenge, these childhood friends are helpless as the culture and traditions they left behind catch up to them in a violent, vengeful way.

As usual, Stephen Graham Jones knocks it out of the park. Set in the world of modern Native American issues, this episodic novel tells the tale of revenge. Jones gives us a group of longtime Native American friends and the horrors that befall them and their families due to their past transgressions.

With each successive section, the story builds and builds to an ultimate faceoff. Throughout, we find ourselves rooting for both avenger and victims. Jones’s love for his Native culture shines with every chapter. I also love that basketball plays such a huge role in the novel. Jones does an amazing job making the sport and its elements an interesting part of the account.

I will be surprised if I ever find a Stephen Graham Jones book I don’t like.

I give this one 5 out of 5 stars.

Available from Amazon and Bookshop.

Epeolatry Book Review: Finch by Jeff VanderMeer

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Title: Finch
Author: Jeff VanderMeer
Genre: Weird/Fungal Noir
Publisher: Underland Press
Release Date: 3rd November, 2009

Synopsis:

In Finch, mysterious underground inhabitants known as the gray caps have reconquered the failed fantasy state Ambergris and put it under martial law. They have disbanded House Hoegbotton and are controlling the human inhabitants with strange addictive drugs, internment in camps, and random acts of terror. The rebel resistance is scattered, and the gray caps are using human labor to build two strange towers. Against this backdrop, John Finch, who lives alone with a cat and a lizard, must solve an impossible double murder for his gray cap masters while trying to make contact with the rebels. Nothing is as it seems as Finch and his disintegrating partner Wyte negotiate their way through a landscape of spies, rebels, and deception. Trapped by his job and the city, Finch is about to come face to face with a series of mysteries that will change him and Ambergris forever.

Before Finch, I’ve only read Vandermeer’s Area X trilogy, of which Annihilation is a must read for modern imaginative fiction. I did try and read Dead Astronauts, but that one wasn’t for me. I only made it a handful of pages in before throwing it in the DNF pile.

Awhile back, a friend of mine recommended Finch to me. But, due to my experience with Dead Astronauts I was reluctant to give it a try. I’m glad I eventually got over my doubt and picked it up. And now I regret taking so long to read it. It was amazing!

Finch is a noir mystery firmly rooted in the New Weird genre alongside authors like China Mieville, Laird Barron, and Nathan Ballingrud. Though this qualifies as horror, it leans more toward the fantastic, becoming the first book I’ve read that could be described as Fungal Noir.

In the story, Finch, a detective for the city of Ambergris, must solve a double murder case. A man and a greycap (a sort of mushroom person) are found dead in an apartment. Half of the greycap’s body is missing. The more Finch digs for clues in this city under the control of the mushroom people, the more trouble he stirs up for himself and his friends.

Finch is filled with insane and unapologetic worldbuilding. I haven’t seen something this imaginative since reading Perdido Street Station by China Mieville.

I give this fungal fantasy 5 out of 5 stars.

Available from Amazon and Bookshop.

Epeolatry Book Review: The Fires of Heaven by Robert Jordan

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Title: The Fires of Heaven (The Wheel of Time, Book 5)
Author: Robert Jordan
Genre: Epic Fantasy
Publisher: Tor Books
Release Date: October 15th, 1994

Synopsis: Soon to be an original series starring Rosamund Pike as Moiraine!

Robert Jordan’s #1 New York Times bestselling epic fantasy series, The Wheel of Time®, continues.

The fifth book in Robert Jordan’s internationally bestselling epic fantasy series, THE WHEEL OF TIME, now reissued with a stunning new cover design.

The bonds and wards that hold the Great Lord of the Dark are slowly failing, but still his fragile prison holds. The Forsaken, immortal servants of the shadow, weave their snares and tighten their grip upon the realms of men, sure in the knowledge that their master will soon break free…

Rand al’ Thor, the Dragon Reborn, knows that he must strike at the Enemy, but his forces are divided by treachery and by ambition. Even the Aes Sedai, ancient guardians of the Light, are riven by civil war. Betrayed by his allies, pursued by his enemies and beset by the madness that comes to the male wielders of the One Power, Rand rides out to meet the foe.

Rand has again fulfilled another part of the prophesies, further proving that he is The Dragon Reborn, or, as the Aiel call him, He Who Comes With The Dawn. Plus, through the mechanizations of the Black Ajah (a secret group of Aes Sedai who support the Dark One), Siuan Sanche is deposed from the Amyrlin Seat. This causes civil war in the White Tower as many go into hiding. The bulk of this one follows as Rand tracks down a renegade group of the Aiel who oppose him while wreaking havoc on the innocent. More ominous characters work against him as well, but they do not work well together. The Forsaken plot and plan against each other just as much as they do against Rand.

I didn’t enjoy this one as much as the previous entries. It didn’t earn its almost 1000 page count this time around. I still liked it and will continue! Only nine more books to go!

This one only gets 4 out of 5 stars.

Available from Amazon and Bookshop.