Tagged: review

Epeolatry Book Review: Lost Souls by Poppy Z. Brite

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Title: Lost Souls
Author: Poppy Z. Brite
Genre: Horror
Publisher: Dell
Release Date: 1992

Synopsis: At a club in Missing Mile, N.C., the children of the night gather, dressed in black, look for acceptance. Among them are Ghost, who sees what others do not; Ann, longing for love; and Jason, whose real name is Nothing, newly awakened to an ancient, deathless truth about his father, and himself.

Others are coming to Missing Mile tonight. Three beautiful, hip vagabonds—Molochai, Twig, and the seductive Zillah, whose eyes are as green as limes—are on their own lost journey, slaking their ancient thirst for blood, looking for supple young flesh.

They find it in Nothing and Ann, leading them on a mad, illicit road trip south to New Orleans. Over miles of dark highway, Ghost pursues, his powers guiding him on a journey to reach his destiny, to save Ann from her new companions, to save Nothing from himself. . . . 

The runaway success of a debut novel always interests writers who are looking to make a similar breakthrough in their own careers. In the case of Lost Souls by Poppy Z Brite, it became a cult classic and launched a career that, so far, comprises eight novels and four short-story collections. 

 The main character, Nothing, is fifteen. He’s bored with his hometown, frustrated with his adopted parents (who seem uniquely unable to understand him) and is eager to skip town to find his real parents. Courtesy of a note pinned to his basket the night he was left on their doorstep, he at least knows his real name. He begins with a cross-country Greyhound bus trip to Missing Mile, North Carolina, the home of his favourite indie rock band Lost Souls?, which is fronted by Steve Finn and Ghost. On the way, he is picked up by a group of three vampires travelling in an anonymous black van, including (unknown to him) his natural father Zillah. 

 The need to feed emerged within Nothing as he grew up, and he takes easily to life on the road, snatching the vulnerable and draining their blood. Zillah is the group’s leader, violent and dangerous. Nothing is determined to find out more about his birth mother, and the arrival of a fourth member of the group, Christian, makes this possible. Meanwhile, Zillah’s sexual charisma seduces another young woman, Ann, and she falls pregnant with his child. Tough choices lie ahead, as carrying a half-vampire child is always fatal to the mother. 

 By 1992, the market was ready for a searingly honest portrait of a gritty, drug-addled vampire novel set against the popular fare of ‘vampires as glamorous, sophisticated and elegant’ we’d grown used to. It was the moment for grunge, so it probably wasn’t an accident that this novel centres in part upon a rubbishy rock band fronted by two stoners adored by their local following. Re-reading this book after many decades for the purpose of this review, it struck me how much the book reflected its time, and I realised all over again that this potential was what Penguin must have seen when they picked it up. It stood the test of time every bit as well as the bands and culture it drew upon, and it took me back to my college years in the early Nineties, going to dive bars to see indie bands of precisely that ilk. 

 The locations are one of the best parts of this novel. New Orleans is Brite’s stamping ground, and you can tell that the author is entirely at home there. No part of the Latin Quarter is left out. Likewise, the small North Carolina town of Missing Mile, which is incidentally the location for Brite’s second novel, a haunted house tale, is central to the action. She captures the ‘nothing ever happens’ nature of small-town America perfectly, and it offers the right contrast to the seedy violence of New Orleans. 

 Technically speaking, it was interesting to see the omniscient point of view utilised in the overarching introduction. Brite established a feel of group identity, essential in the environments presented here where there is so much pressure to fit in that everyone ends up thinking alike and no one wants to stand out from the crowd. Courtesy of Ghost’s ability to read other people’s thoughts and enter into their feelings directly, there were frequent journeys from one character’s point of view to another within a scene. At other times, the point of view spontaneously shifted mid-scene from one character to another to reflect the group identity that kept the protagonists pushing forward through their bloodthirsty nocturnal activities, murdering youngsters to drink their blood, without anyone turning a hair. 

 This is an unforgivingly bleak and grimy portrait of the underworld in which vampirism can flourish: runaway children vulnerable and exposed, young people experimenting with sex, drugs and alcohol, and of course the indie rock scene and small bars that play host to their performances. There are flashes of optimism, not least of all in Ghost, whose humanity is grounded in his magical ability to see into other people’s feelings and thoughts. However, precious few happy endings occur in such an unremitting environment, and this novel reflects that truth perfectly. I loved every moment of it. 

 Review the reviewers! If you’ve read this novel, or just have some thoughts on any point made in this review, tag me at @JohnCAdamsSF on Twitter to share them. 

 Enjoy! 

out of 5 ravens.

Available from Amazon and Bookshop.

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: Floaters by Garrett Boatman

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Title: Floaters
Author: Garrett Boatman
Genre: Horror
Publisher: Crystal Lake Publishing
Release Date: 1oth September, 2021

Synopsis: London 1890s. Out of the Thames’ fetid depths the undead rise to feast upon the living. While floaters seek blood, another army takes advantage of the chaos. Boiling out of their rookeries of crime, marauders swarm through London’s affluent neighborhoods looting and burning.

While the beleaguered police and the Queen’s army battle twin plagues—human and inhuman—London’s criminal youth gangs join forces to save their city. Will Tagget, leader of the Lambeth Lads, together with his enemies Bill Drummond of the Drury Lane Gang, bull-necked George Fish of the Elephant and Castle Gang, shillelagh-wielding Dirk Bogart of the New Cut Gang, Quincy Bird of City Road, along with their female counterparts—Lambeth Kate, Queen Jane, New Cut Beth, Razor Lil and Dirty Deidre—set out on an adventure the telling of which might earn a man a lifetime of free drinks. If he lives to tell it.

Will these violent youths be able to put aside their rivalries long enough to get the job done?

The synopsis of this novella promises rival gangs in Victorian London and zombies. The book certainly delivers. The author did his research on the time period, which is evident in the reading. For the most part this is welcome, although at times there was too much history and too little plot. (This coming from someone who studied history in college). For example, in one part of the book, the author lists all of the different gangs present at a meeting. I’m talking a paragraph of them. When introducing characters and during dialogue, the reader is also often given information regarding what gang said character is affiliated with. I get why; the point is that rival gangs who hate each other have come together to fight the more immediate threat of the undead. But it might have been better handled with more subtlety. As it is, I felt hit over the head with this theme repeatedly.

Another minor complaint I have is the sheer number of exclamation points used in internal monologue, though admittedly, this might just be a pet peeve of mine. Additionally, the repetitive use of certain phrases/ideas bothered me. The biggest offender is the phrase “and no mistake.” 

For this reader, the strongest part of this work was the opening chapters where the characters discover the threat and first come together to face it. Boatman captures the time period and the atmosphere well, and the fear is palpable. The author’s style flows well, and even scenes with blood and gore are written in lovely prose.

Recommended for those with special interest in Victorian England, gangs in aforementioned setting, historical fiction, and zombies. Ideally, all of those things combined. 

3 out of 5 ravens

Available from Amazon.

Book Review: The Book of Accidents by Chuck Wendig

TW: graphic animal death, graphic animal abuse, parent/child abuse, mentions of sexual abuse, mentions of spousal abuse, homophobic terms, murder, gore, descriptions of child death/murder

Disclaimer: This article contains 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.

Nate Graves’ estranged abusive father wants to leave Nate’s childhood home to him when he dies. Not wanting to live in a house full of bad memories, Nate wants to sell the house and move on with his life; however, Nate’s wife Maddie convinces him to uproot their lives in Philadelphia and move to his childhood home hoping that it will bring the family closer together and give their son Oliver a fresh start.

Immediately after moving into the house, Nate begins to see visions of his dead father and a long-dead serial killer that used to kill his victims near the Graves’ home. Animals in the area exhibit odd behavior and show physical malformations. Maddie loses consciousness and all sense of time while working on her art. Oliver makes new friends, one of whom is obsessed with exposing him to dark magic that is contained in a logbook of accidents from an abandoned mine. The longer the family lives in Nate’s childhood home, the stranger the world around them becomes.

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Epeolatry Book Review: The Rookery by Deborah Hewitt

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Title: The Rookery
Author: Deborah Hewitt
Genre: Contemporary Fantasy
Publisher: Tor Books
Release Date: 1oth August, 2021

Synopsis:

Follow Alice Wyndham into the Rookery, a magical alternate-London created to safely harbor those with magical abilities – or so Alice believes. Alice is an aviarist, someone who can see people’s souls in the form of birds, called nightjars. She has also inherited the magical gifts of Mielikki, the goddess of nature. But Alice’s powers have a dark side; she hopes that, by learning to master her other gifts, she’ll be able to quell the deadly magic which threatens her very existence. 

It’s not until Alice becomes the victim of a series of unexpected, seemingly inexplicable attacks that she realizes she’s not the only one in trouble. The Summer Tree, the linchpin of this world, is growing, and the Rookery begins crumbling around her. All her hopes and plans are thrown into disarray, and Alice discovers that, instead of running from it, she must embrace her deadly soul to save the people and place she loves – before their entire world falls apart.  

 

The Rookery is a darkly magical contemporary fantasy set a year after the events of The Nightjar, the first book in this duology. Like several other reviewers have noted, I didn’t realize that The Rookery was the second in a series, but that didn’t stop me from absolutely loving this book. In fact, the beginning of the story reiterates the events that led Alice to this point. For those who have read The Nightjar, this might feel a bit redundant; but for someone who accidentally read The Rookery first, the summary helped me get into the story quickly. 

The characters, the worldbuilding, the magic system: each element works together so well and creates such a rich, compelling narrative that I truly couldn’t put the book down. Hewitt draws on Finnish myth to build an interesting, complex magic system unlike any I’ve encountered before. The Rookery brims with life, lore, and history of its own; each turn of the page brings something new to discover, a new character to meet. The book left me amazed at the depth of the author’s imagination. 

Alice is the kind of heroine I love to read about. She’s flawed but clever, loving but brutal when she needs to be, and she really develops on the page. I appreciate that the minor characters have lives and stories of their own, too; they’re not just devices to move forward Alice’s agenda. Many readers will love the slow burn between Alice and Crowley, but the most interesting and complex relationship in the book, for me, is between Alice and Tuoni. Hewitt masterfully navigates all sorts of relationships – romantic, familial, friendships – making the characters themselves feel so much more real.

While The Rookery is quite firmly fantasy with a bit of romance mixed in, there are some truly horrific scenes in the book, too, which will appeal to readers with a taste for the genre’s darker side. The result of Holly’s membership test, for example, was so surprising, and so gruesome, that it shocked me. I just didn’t expect that level of brutality from the book, or the suddenness of it, which made the world that much more realistic and gave the magic system a cold, unforgiving logic. 

Finally, Hewitt’s writing is top notch, crafting a compulsively readable story. She tightly maps an action-packed tale full of twists, turns, and artfully plotted subtext that provides a highly satisfying pay off at the end. Ultimately, she has created a story and a world that never fails to feel real – one might think it possible to peel back the layers of this world, and step through into the Rookery. 

Star Rating: 5/5

Available from Amazon and Bookshop.

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.