Tagged: review

Epeolatry Book Review: Slattery Falls by Brennan LaFaro

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Title: Slattery Falls
Author: Brennan LaFaro
Genre: Horror
Publisher: Silver Shamrock Publishing
Release Date: 20th July, 2021

Synopsis: Travis, Elsie, and Josh, college kids with a ghost-hunting habit, scour New England for the most interesting haunted locales. Their journey eventually leads them to Slattery Falls, a small Massachusetts town living in the shadow of the Weeks House. The former home of the town’s most sinister and feared resident sits empty. At least that’s what the citizens say. It’s all in good fun. But after navigating the strange home, they find the residents couldn’t be more wrong. And now the roles are reversed. The hunters have become the hunted. Something evil refuses to release its grip, forcing the trio into one last adventure.

The style in which this novella is written draws the reader in quickly. It’s conversational, which makes it easy to build a connection with Travis, our narrator. Speaking of characters… Travis, Elise, and Josh are well developed characters with lovely and dynamic relationships. I particularly enjoyed Josh. I recognized the hints toward Asperger’s, and I appreciated that LaFaro included a differently-abled character as a protagonist in this story. 

My one minor complaint about the story revolves around why the antagonist targeted Travis, Elise, and Josh. We are told that together, they are powerful, but never why or what connection they have to Weeks. It must have been important for the antagonist to go out of his way to target them (and to have watched them for so long), but we are left without knowing those reasons. The book would have benefited from more explanation in this regard.

Slattery Falls was a great read with crisp writing, and characters that I’m sure will stick with me. The friendship between Travis and Josh was beautifully written, and their easy banter made me laugh out loud multiple times. I love the novella format in the horror genre. I believe it is a perfect length to keep the reader’s interest, while maximizing tension and storytelling. LaFaro has used this to wonderful effect, and I’m excited to read what he comes out with next. 

4.5 Stars out of 5

Available from Amazon.

Epeolatry Book Review: Grimoire of the Four Imposters by Coy Hall

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Title: The Grimoire of the Four Imposters
Author: Coy Hall
Genre: Occult Horror
Publisher: Nosetouch Press
Release Date: 7th September, 2021

Synopsis: JOURNEY INTO THE OCCULT, WHERE HISTORY IS HORROR.

Presented in six tales, Grimoire of the Four Impostors takes readers on a dark tour of the 17th century, where corners of the world stand in shadow. Here grimoires possess secrets, impostors beguile the unwary, temptation turns macabre, and the night is no friend.

Embrace the Martyr
Touch the Nightshade
Taste the Brine
Wield the Hatchet

DECIPHER THE GRIMOIRE

This is a wonderful collection of stories, all linked via the thread of the occult and ‘magic’. Two stories ‘bookend’ the four, providing the reference to the grimoire, its nature and its ultimate fate. The four tales inbetween take you from an encounter between a wealthy Hungarian and a scholar, to the destruction of an abbey, to sailors marooned on a Caribbean island, to a journeyman executioner. Each of these stories is ‘tainted’ by a being which is not human, though it may appear so in some aspects. Each tale is tangibly linked to the others with its theme of the creation of life from the inanimate or the dead, the secrets of which are held in the grimoire itself. Richly descriptive, hugely atmospheric, these stories blend the occult with folk horror and the gothic. An intelligent and refreshing addition to the world of literary speculative fiction.

5/5 stars

Available from a number of sources – all listed here Nosetouch Press, Bookshop, and Amazon.

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

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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: 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: Sentinel by Drew Starling

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Title: Sentinel
Author: Drew Sterling
Genre: Horror
Publisher: Eerie River Publishing
Release Date: 13th May, 2021

Synopsis: A monster. A missing boy. And nowhere to run.

Something is lurking in the woods just beyond Aaron and Ellen Dreyer’s new country home, and an evil that has been hiding in plain sight is about to emerge. A neighbor is brutally murdered, their 4-year old son goes missing in broad daylight, and the local town of Bensalem devolves into a cesspool of finger-pointing and chaos. With nowhere left to turn, Aaron and Ellen are forced to venture into the woods to find their son… and the truth. But in the process, they uncover a force larger and more sinister than they ever could have imagined.

Sentinel is author Drew Starling’s debut novel from Eerie River Publishing, and what a way to debut! Y’all, I didn’t want to put this one down. Starling has created some compelling characters, and he put them through the wringer in this story. 

Sentinel is the story of the Dreyer family, who having recently settled into a new home, begin to encounter a sinister and supernatural disturbance. When tragic events begin to occur in the small town of Bensalem, the Dreyer family knows there is a connection between those events and the strange entity stalking their home in the pre-dawn hours. 

But that ain’t all, folks. The novel’s prologue lets the reader know from the start that there’s more to this story than some random monster terrorizing the Virgina countryside. You want to know what it is? You’ll have to read the book. I promise you, it’s worth it. 

Starling writes female leads surprisingly well. In this book, we get sections from Ellen Dreyer and Cheryl McNamara’s points of view, and both prove to be complex and relatable characters. Starling has done an excellent job making the reader feel connected to both women. 

The suspense woven throughout this tale is remarkable, demonstrating Starling’s deft hand at keeping the reader engaged. While reading this novel, a lingering sense of dread creeps in. You know bad things are going to happen, but you keep turning pages because you need to see just how bad it’s going to get before the end. 

While reading, I wondered how Starling was going to tie together the various plot threads in the novel, and I was not disappointed. The fear and horror are upped in the last third of the book, and all the various plots come together in a shocking and horrifying conclusion. Starling shows off his chops at writing horror, with scenes that are disturbing, yet necessary. 

With this debut, Starling has singled himself out as an author to watch in the horror genre. I give this 5 out of 5 stars.

Available from Bookshop.org and Amazon.

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

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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: 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.

Epeolatry Book Review: The Complete Fiction of H.P. Lovecraft

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Title: The Complete Fiction of H.P. Lovecraft
Author: H.P. Lovecraft
Genre: Horror/Sci-fi
Publisher: Chartwell Books
Release Date: 1st July, 2016 (this edition)

Synopsis:The Complete Fiction of H. P. Lovecraft collects the great horror author’s novel, four novellas, and fifty-three short stories.

Written between the years 1917 and 1935, this collection features Lovecraft’s trademark fantastical creatures and supernatural thrills, as well as many horrific and cautionary science-fiction themes, that have influenced some of today’s important writers and filmmakers, including Stephen King, Alan Moore, F. Paul Wilson, Guillermo del Toro, and Neil Gaiman.

Included in this volume are The Case of Charles Dexter Ward, “The Call of Cthulhu,” “The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath,” “At the Mountains of Madness,” “The Shadow Over Innsmouth,” “The Color Out of Space,” “The Dunwich Horror,” and many more hair-raising tales.

As an author who has acted as inspiration to the (now several) generations of horror writers who’ve followed him, and who in many ways is just starting to earn the critical attention he deserves in the realm of literature in general, HP Lovecraft’s works bear frequent re-reading. For those discovering his work for the first time, I offer a mixture of, ‘There’s something special ahead’ and an uncomprehending, ‘Where’ve you been, and why are you so late arriving at the party?’ 

The Cthulhu Mythos was laid out in the world Lovecraft developed in “Dagon”, “The Call of Cthulhu” and other stories. It has been developed by countless other writers since, and adapted into films, roleplaying games, and computer games. 

Authors such as English horror writer Ramsey Campbell have worked within the mythos extensively, in addition to creating their own universes. There appears to be no limit to the fecundity of this fictional world a century after its invention. In the last decade, Campbell’s Great Old Ones Mythos, itself derived from the Cthulhu Mythos, has in turn received homage from a new generation of writers. A mythos that spawns a mythos, which then takes on a weird identity all its own, is something very Lovecraftian in essence, reminding us of the insignificance of one person in the span of cosmic literature in a way that I’m sure would have delighted him. 

Independent publishing houses continue to produce novels, novellas, short story anthologies, and collections of flash fiction set directly in Lovecraft’s world (although copyright restrictions vary across different legal jurisdictions). They also offer open submission calls in related universes and writing opportunities inspired by Lovecraft in a wider sense (perhaps set not within his settings but still utilizing the key features of weird and cosmic horror he honed to perfection). 

This volume is a great place to start with Lovecraft’s work. It features key longer pieces such as “At the Mountains of Madness”, “The Shadow Out of Time” and “The Shadow Over Innsmouth” (to name but a few), and includes shorter stories such as “The Cats of Ulthar”, “The Terrible Old Man” and “Polaris”. The Necronomicon, an invented book on forbidden magic, has entered the lexicon of popular culture. It is referred to throughout this volume, and it has its own “History” here, too. 

Lovecraft’s influence on horror fiction is so pervasive that it is easy for readers and writers to absorb his style and tone via other authors, but there is simply no substitute for reading his works directly. Indeed, to do otherwise is to miss the very best of weird fiction. The shortest stories are bursting with discomfort and oddity, and Lovecraft’s breadth of the universe’s capacity for evil (and how far it is prepared to travel to subject mankind to it) is perpetually unsettling. 

The longer fiction immerses the reader in weird events, gradually ratcheting up the tension until insanity represents a welcome release from the terrible truth about to be uncovered, or a gruesome death acts as merely the beginning of the narrator’s suffering. 

Available from Amazon and Bookshop.