Review: The Haunting of Velkwood by Gwendolyn Kiste

cover of The Haunting of VelkwoodThe Haunting of Velkwood by Gwendolyn Kiste
S&S/Saga Press (March 5, 2024)
256 pages; $26.99 hardcover; e-book $12.99
Reviewed by Dave Simms

Sometimes a ghost story breaks through the confines of the tried and true and creates something different. Something unique. Something both beautiful and painful. 2024 is turning out to be an incredible year for dark fiction, and Gwendolyn Kiste just raised the bar for everyone with The Haunting of Velkwood, a novel that redefines the subgenre in the best way possible. It breaks and rewrites the rules that Stephen King, Richard Matheson and ,of course, Shirley Jackson, wrote. For those unfamiliar with Kiste’s work, this would be a fine place to begin.Continue Reading

Review: Among the Living by Tim Lebbon

cover of Among the LivingAmong the Living by Tim Lebbon
Titan Books (February 13, 2024)
304 pages; $16.99 paperback; $9.99 e-book
Reviewed by Dave Simms

When a novel marries the true terror inherent to humanity with the relevance of the world’s biggest issue (the death of the environment), it can resonate in a manner that most thriller and horror fans cannot escape. Imagine the The Thing crossed with The Terror — or any other high-quality isolated frozen story — and then transforming it into something even more frightening. That’s the gem that Tim Lebbon has created here with Among the Living.Continue Reading

Review: The House of Last Resort by Christopher Golden

cover of The House of Last ResortThe House of Last Resort by Christopher Golden
St. Martin’s Press (January 30, 2023)
304 pages; $24.65 hardcover; $14.99 e-book
Reviewed by Dave Simms

Christopher Golden knows better than many writers how to turn a setting into a brutal, living, breathing character. His new, terrifying novel might be the perfect encapsulation of that statement. When a reader takes into consideration the body of work that includes Ararat (possible resting place of Noah’s Ark), Road of Bones (forbidden frozen land in Russia), and Strangeland (what might be the most inventive setting in horror fantasy in ages), the praise for this story is not taken lightly.Continue Reading

Review: Double Dose by F. Paul Wilson

cover of Double DoseDouble Dose by F. Paul Wilson
Gordian Knot Books (September 2023)
382 pages; $16.99 paperback; $4.99 e-book
Reviewed by Dave Simms

The world of legend F. Paul Wilson continues to grow in this second installment of the Duad series. Is it the finale or just another chapter? Read on to decide but if one is familiar with Wilson’s storytelling, the mystery is always afoot. One thing is sure, however. The man seems incapable of penning a bad — or boring — book.Continue Reading

Review: The Daughters of Block Island by Christa Carmen

cover of The Daughters of Block IslandThe Daughters of Block Island by Christa Carmen
Thomas & Mercer (December 1, 2023)
331 pages; $12.78 paperback; $4.99 e-book
Reviewed by Dave Simms

The gothic horror novel just received a massive shot of adrenaline to its bleak-but-beautiful-heart. Christa Carmen provides that jolt in The Daughters of Block Island, a stunning novel that arrives in the final month of the year, just in time for the calendar’s longest nights of darkness. In this debut novel, Carmen doesn’t attempt to top the classics; instead, she subverts them in a unique manner. She embraces the tropes that made the subgenre what it is and forges an enthralling tale of two sisters, a strange town, and a cast of characters that would make the masters proud.Continue Reading

Review: Midas by Tyler Jones

cover of Midas by Tyler JonesMidas by Tyler Jones
Earthling Publications (October 2023)
$60 hardcover
Reviewed by Dave Simms

It’s about that time of year again for the Earthling Halloween book series to wow horror readers. This year’s offering from Earthling Publications and Paul Miller keeps the streak alive with the eighteenth straight winner, this time from Tyler Jones, author of Burn the Plans, another fine read. This entry scrapes the bottom of the human soul and how far one is willing to go for the ones they love, even if it means losing the riches that build the foundation of who that individual is and how deep their conviction runs. Some might find a comparison to Pet Sematery or “The Monkey’s Paw” — yet this cautionary tale breaks off from the comparisons due to Tyler’s strong talent and grasp of natural storytelling.Continue Reading

Review: Schrader’s Chord by Scott Leeds

cover of Schrader's ChordSchrader’s Chord by Scott Leeds
Tor Nightfire (September 5, 2023)
448 pages; $28.99 hardcover; $14.99 e-book
Reviewed by Dave Simms

Horror novels revolving around music almost never fails to excite. Two primal entities tap into humanity’s inner core, often bypassing most emotional defenses, leaving the reader or listener bare to the effects of the intended message. When combining both, the effect can be powerful.

The publisher touts this novels as a combination between Heart-Shaped Box and The Haunting of Hill House. It definitely hold elements of each, but Schrader’s Chord is its own beast and should be enjoyed as its own creation. To this reviewer’s ears, this novel is the literary equivalent of a great rock album.Continue Reading

Review: Mister Magic by Kiersten White

cover of Mister MagicMister Magic by Kiersten White
Del Rey (August 8, 2023)
304 pages; $25.20 hardcover; $13.99 e-book
Reviewed by Dave Simms

Reminiscing about the children’s shows many grew up with is a blurry experience. From The Magic Garden to Barney and Friends, there’s often a bit of weirdness, even some scariness, when the program is looked at without the innocence of youth to soften the edges. Revisiting those times can rip the scabs off some tough times, some repressed memories.

Kiersten White has crafted an entertaining and damn creepy romp through those shows in Mister Magic, which might just cause a therapy visit or two. For a Bram Stoker-winning author, she definitely lives up to the hype, surpassing her previous work, Hide, which was impressive.Continue Reading

Review: Whalefall by Daniel Kraus

cover of Whalefall by Daniel KrausWhalefall by Daniel Kraus
MTV Books (August 8, 2023)
336 pages; $27.99 hardcover; $14.99 e-book
Reviewed by Dave Simms

What is a whalefall? A spoiler would be cruel, so steer clear of any marine biology sites until the end. What Whalefall the book is cannot be contained in the definition of the word readers will discover late in the story. What can be said is that this is one of the most intense — and moving — stories that will grace the bookstores in 2023. It’s bound to make the year’s “best of” lists, which is quite the feat on its own, yet what Daniel Kraus has created here is something that can’t be quantified.Continue Reading

Review: The Militia House by John Milas

cover of The Militia HouseThe Militia House by John Milas
Henry Holt and Company (July 2023)
272 pages; $18.99 hardcover; $13.99 e-book
Reviewed by Dave Simms

Military horror. It’s a subgenre that doesn’t get enough love, but should, especially when in the hands of a writer who has lived the nightmare of war itself. John Milas’s debut, The Militia House, is a taut novel that walks the razor-wire between entertaining and uncomfortable in a gothic ghost story.Continue Reading

Review: The Little Book of Satanism by La Carmina

cover of The Little Book of SatanismThe Little Book of Satanism by La Carmina
Ulysses Press (October 2022)
144 pages; $14.95 paperback; $10.99 e-book
Reviewed by Dave Simms

Now for a controversial topic, one that is highly misunderstood. La Carmina, a journalist and television travel host, penned this short, but highly informative and entertaining pocket-sized book about the history and culture of the religion.Continue Reading

Review: The Ferryman by Justin Cronin

cover of The FerrymanThe Ferryman by Justin Cronin
Ballantine Books (May 2023)
560 pages; $20.99 paperback; $13.99 e-book
Reviewed by Dave Simms

For those familiar with Justin Cronin’s previous works, particularly The Passage and City of Mirrors, it’s readily apparent that nothing is straightforward. The author loves to create labyrinthine plots with characters more layered than a Greek maze. The Ferryman doesn’t disappoint. It might just be his best work yet. It’s nearly impossible to describe. Part thriller, part science fiction, part dystopia, and elements of mystery and horror sprinkled in will keep readers’ minds churning to figure out the endgame.Continue Reading

Review: Ameri-Scares: Legend of the Night Marchers by Patricia Lee Macomber

Ameri-Scares: Legend of the Night Marchers by Patricia Lee Macomber
Crossroad Press (March 2023)
192 pages; $12.99 paperback; $3.99 e-book
Reviewed by Dave Simms

The Ameri-Scares series built by Elizabeth Massie has been one of biggest surprises in middle grade horror in the past decade. Stories based on legend, folklore, or creepy stories in every state rival the best of Goosebumps, and with serious geography and history. A couple of the authors allowed in her sandbox have proven themselves worthy.
First-timer Patricia Lee Macomber knocks it out of the park, luau-style with Legend of the Night Marchers. A horror tale in Hawaii? Absolutely! There’s a wealth of stories waiting to be mined in the state — yet Macomber goes for the different in the marchers that bring the creepy factor to the nth degree.

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Review: American Cannibal edited by Rebecca Rowland

cover of American CannibalAmerican Cannibal edited by Rebecca Rowland
Maenad Press (March 2023)
352 pages; $19.99 hardback; $9.99 e-book
Reviewed by Dave Simms

This is what’s needed right now: a wonderfully brutal anthology about cannibalism in American history. At first, readers may feel a touch of reluctance due to the subject matter. My advice? DO NOT HESITATE.

These stories, chosen with exquisite taste by editor Rebecca Rowland, are all about the story and characters as the history of this country frames some truly unique tales. I’m not one for gore and this anthology, again, focuses on the true horror: human behavior and the awful acts people inflict on each other before the blood begins to spill.Continue Reading

Review: Lone Women by Victor LaValle

cover of Lone Women by Victor LaValleLone Women by Victor LaValle
One World (March 28, 2023)
304 pages; $27 hardback; $13.99 e-book
Reviewed by Dave Simms

Some books, special books, have a narrative style that grab the reader by the throat while whispering the words of angels in the ear. When that writing connects with a story so mesmerizing, the result is a reading experience that whisks away the hours.

When attempting to explain the plot of Lone Women, one might find themselves a bit tangled. Victor LaValle has been know to accomplish this before. The Changeling, The Ballad of Black Tom, and The Devil in Silver all exemplify this in stories that meld genres, the fantastic with the grotesque, the beautiful with the grittiest of settings.Continue Reading