Tag Archives: horror

Ashes in Venice by Gojan Nikolich – a review

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I chose this one to review as I thought it took place in Venice, Italy. I love Venice and was looking forward to an adventure in that city. Imagine my shock when I started reading and the first chapters were full of graphic violence and not a canal or Doge’s palace in sight. I actually went back to the cover several times on my kindle to see if I was reading the right book. And yes, it still said Ashes in Venice.

The action takes place in Las Vegas and eventually, when the character got to the Venetian Hotel, I thought maybe that was where the title came from even though that was still misleading. I admit, I was liking the main character and was intrigued by how the various threads of the story were coming together, but I also have to admit I was very distracted by why I thought from the blurb that the story was set in Italy.  Eventually, all that became clear but it was deep into the body of the book before it did.

The graphic violence was pretty startling. I’d warn potential readers about that. It wasn’t really gratuitous, but it was a bit over the top for this reader. I could see how it fit into the storyline, but sometimes, it was too much.

The story itself was gripping and the book was a page turner. I stayed up late to finish it when I got close to the end. I figured out a lot of it by about midway through, but it was compelling enough for me to read to the end and see if I was right.

Overall, I liked the story and the flawed detective who was trying to solve the crimes. He was a completely drawn personality, warts and all. His love for his wife who was ill was lovely. He had gambling and financial issues, but he was doing his best to make things good for his wife. The humor the author gave him in his internal thoughts was a welcome relief from the violence of the story. I really enjoyed the wit of the author.

The author’s imagination is a wild place based on the evidence in this tale. Some of the things he conjured were mind blowing. Clever, violent and unique is how I’d describe this book. If you’re squeamish, though, give it a pass. 4 stars.

Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia, A Review

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Set in 1950 in Mexico, this book appealed to me initially because the cover is so beautiful and because I’ve loved gothic tales since I was a young reader. I have to say, the book did not disappoint. It definitely lived up to the promise made by the cover. It was creepy and had just the right touch of horror.

The author is very adept at descriptions. Her moldy, genteel, neglected manor house was sufficiently sinister and so easy to picture with the atmospheric way the author detailed the wallpaper, the darkness of the place, the shadows and the crumbling textures of the various rooms. Not much electrical light in the house and the use of candles and lanterns added to the eerie atmosphere.

The inhabitants of the home were also well-drawn. The patriarch of the family the heroine came to stay with when she was concerned about her cousin was utterly horrific and macabre. The way the author conjured him and his smelly breath and scent of decay was absolutely divine (if you like creep-tastic descriptions).  I could almost smell the nastiness rolling off him. It was deliciously horrifying.

One character I loved to hate was the female resident of the house—not the heroine’s cousin, but the mother of the only remotely normal person (and that’s saying a lot) in the house. This woman was awful and just completely unkind to the heroine. No talking at dinner, controlling her son, controlling the heroine’s cousin and just being an all-around hateful person. I wanted to smack her.  

The story itself had traditional elements of the gothic genre as well as a lot of horror elements. It kind of reminded me of the movie Crimson Peak–at least in the descriptions of the manor house that had fallen into disrepair and neglect.  Mold and mushrooms were a big theme in the story and I don’t think I’ve ever been so unsettled by mushrooms in my life. I loved it, though.

A sense of foreboding which is essential to gothic stories was seeped into every page after the first chapter or two. The dawning horror the heroine faced built in a fabulous manner and by the last few chapters, I was on edge for her and wondered how the author was going to resolve the dilemmas our heroine found herself in.

I usually figure out stories really early on, but this one had some twists and turns I didn’t see coming and I really enjoyed that. All in all, this was a great read. Not sure I want to eat any mushrooms after that, though.  🙂

Dracula’s Death, a Review – by Laszlo Tamasfi; Illustrations by Jozsef Svab

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Dracula’s Death is a retelling of a Hungarian silent film that has been lost to time. The author has meticulously researched this film as well as the novelization of the story. He has translated the tale from Hungarian and it’s a gem of a story. This is not your standard Dracula tale. This one involves a mental asylum, a young girl in love but sad due to her father’s impending death, and a lot of creepy inmates of that asylum. The heroine is a sweet character and I found myself rooting for her throughout the story. 

The story is evocative and well-told. The descriptions are lovely and this reader was transported to the snowy mountains of Europe just reading the prose. The illustrations are also lovely and amazing. Even the cover of the book is delicious. I very much enjoyed this story and appreciate the efforts made by the author to translate this to English as otherwise, it wouldn’t be available for us here to enjoy. 

After the story—which is very creepy and exciting—the author shares his research into the film. He translates many articles that were published during the time the film was being made as well as publicity ads during the era of the release of this silent film. Photos are also shared that bring this movie to life. It’s sad that its been lost to the annals of time, but wow—good job to Mr. Tamasfi for his work in bringing it to us—as well as the articles about it—and the Mr. Svab for his wonderful illustrations. 

If you like horror or Dracula tales, this one shouldn’t be missed as it’s a different take on a popular character and suitably creepy. If you’re a film buff—silent or talkies—this is a great resource for a missing piece of film history. 

Book of Skulls by David Hutchison, a review

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I received this book in exchange for an honest review.

Let me start by saying how much I love Edinburgh and historical novels so this was right up my alley. I think I was already half-inclined to love it just from the cover and the setting. The author did the rest. His writing is visual and visceral. Some parts were a bit gruesome but the story called for it, in my opinion. This was not a lovely picnic on Arthur’s Seat on an early fall day. This was a murder mystery with a number of grisly murders….all in the name of science. A touch of Burke and Hare and their life of crime/murder adds to the historical feel of the book.

The protagonist, Liz, is a medical student who happens to be female. An uphill battle in the 19th Century for sure. She makes friends with another female student as they fight for their rightful place in the school. She also makes friends with a young man and the local police medical examiner. She’s accepted as an assistant with the coroner and gets some valuable experience in actual medical science, albeit on dead bodies, not living patients. But then she is also asked to assist in a local clinic and learns valuable skills. She seems to be on her way to being successful as a doctoress even though the powers that be at the school want the females out.

The story has many twists and turns and a number of exciting sequences where the reader fears for the protagonist and her friends’ safety. It was a ride for sure. The author is excellent at building suspense and even though I figured out the villain early, the book was still a page turner and very enjoyable. The side plot with the medical examiner is a great addition to the tale.

Overall, this was a delightful read…even with the violence and macabre parts. I give it 4.5 stars.

It seems there will be more adventures with this protagonist and I, for one, plan to be on the lookout for the next volume.

Highland Cove- A Book Review

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Highland Cove by Dylan J. Morgan

Five friends with ambitions to become documentarians travel from London to an abandoned asylum on a Scottish island. The doctor who ran the asylum died sixty years prior and the hospital was closed and is rumored to be haunted.

The author is excellent at evoking atmosphere. The descriptions—first of the pub where the friends met the man who was taking them to the island—then of the island itself—and, finally, the inside of the asylum. The descriptions were creepy and very well done. Dark clouds hanging over the island and the storm complete with lightning added to the exquisite sense of anticipation of meeting some supernatural beings in the corridors or hospital rooms in the abandoned building. Peeling paint, dead leaves and icy wind whirling through the scenes were particularly evocative.

This reader enjoyed the suspense of the book for most of the novel. Figuring out an essential plot point early on was interesting and upped the anticipation of what was ahead.

What was unexpected was the shock of what happened later in the story, and without any spoilers, it’s hard to say what that was, but it was almost too much for this reader. I confess, I glossed over some of that, swiping my e-reader pages faster until the tale moved past that part. I imagine many readers of this genre would revel in that section, but not this one. It didn’t ruin the story for me, but it was disturbing.

The flashes back to the past added to the overall creepiness of the novel. The author is definitely gifted with a talent for descriptiveness. I could see all the places in the story and some made my skin crawl.

If you’re a fan of horror, you shouldn’t pass on this one. The ending was particularly disturbing. Just don’t read before bed or you might wake up at 2 a.m, like I did thinking I heard someone calling my name…..

New Short Story- Fungus Amongus

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I love to support Toys for Tots. Every year, my kids and I would go and shop for children less fortunate than them. My youngest is working here in our hometown and we still donate every year. I was pleased to hear that one of my publishers was putting together a horror/fantasy anthology to benefit this charity and I wanted to participate.

My husband inadvertently gave me the idea for a story when he accidentally poked his eye on a bamboo plant putting it in the floorboard of the car. When he went to the eye doctor, she said the plant had scratched his cornea and gave him a fungus.

Well, it was off to the races with my imagination. What if someone got a fungus in his eye and it grew and grew into a mushroom crawling out on his face???  And what if someone decided to try to rescue him and was given seemingly impossible tasks to do so? And what if all we’d ever believed about magical creatures was turned upside down?

It was a super fun story to write and I can’t wait for it to be out in the world.

To hold you over until Sept, here’s a fungus/mushroom growing on an oak tree in my yard. Almost like it was hanging out to be part of the story, right?  🙂 IMG_3948

Another Anthology Recommendation

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Whortleberry Press has released its Valentine’s Day Anthology last week. The stories are all Sci-Fi, fantasy or horror. I have a story in it called My Celluloid Valentine and it’s a paranormal fantasy (or is it?). You’ll have to read it to find out if it’s a fantasy or the truth. It was one that came to me whole and practically wrote itself. I love it when that happens.

Suspiria- The Movie

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Just watched a horrendous horror  movie called Suspiria. AND I do  mean horrendous.  I say watched but I really wasn’t watching. I was finishing the edits on a book I have coming out in January, 2011 and adding an additional love scene at the recommendation of my editor.  The movie was on in the background and oh. dear. God.  It was awful! Horrible. The music was like damn Chinese water torture. My head still hurts from it.  The gore was so badly faked and the wolf? Let’s not even go there on the fakeness (is that a word? If not, it should be just for purposes of this wolf) of the canine. It was atrocious. 

The funny thing (and I mean the only funny thing)  is that the movie was directed by a dude named Dario and the hero in the book  I was editing is named Dario. 

Never, never, never watch this flick. As Nancy Reagan used to say, “just say no.”  Really, trust me on this one.