Review: Empire of the Vampire by Jay Kristoff

cover of Empire of the VampireEmpire of the Vampire by Jay Kristoff
St. Martin’s Press (September 14, 2021)
752 pages; hardcover $25.49; paperback $14.99; e-book $14.99
Reviewed by Janelle Janson

“Even the greatest of fools can’t deny the existence of evil. We dwell in its shadow every day. The best of us rise above it, the worst of us swallow it whole, but we all of us wade hip-deep through it, every moment of our lives.”

When I think of Jay Kristoff, I immediately think young adult fantasy series. As much as I love watching fantasy, I am much pickier with books. And to be honest, my preferred fantasy to read is horror, so when Kristoff first announced his upcoming vampire series, I nearly lost my mind. Even though I am picky with fantasy, I generally enjoy Kristoff’s books. But it wasn’t until he mentioned vampires that my eyes popped out of my skull. If you’re anything like me, you have a somewhat unhealthy obsession with these creatures. Of course, there are incredible books like Salem’s Lot, Dracula, and Interview with a Vampire, which I make it a point never to compare. But bottom-line, I will read almost any book with vampires.Continue Reading

Review: Slewfoot: A Tale of Bewitchery by Brom

cover of Slewfoot by BromSlewfoot: A Tale of Bewitchery by Brom
Tor Nightfire (September 14, 2021)
320 pages; hardcover $25.49; paperback $14.99; e-book $14.99
Reviewed by Janelle Janson

If you’re anything like me, then you have only dipped into Brom’s world with Krampus, an iconic story written by the artistically talented Brom that we revisit every Christmas. I’ll admit Krampus wasn’t exactly my favorite book, but Brom’s style and aesthetic polish made it an enjoyable reading experience. In Slewfoot, it’s not just Brom’s brilliant artistry, but also the plot, his immersive writing style, and his magical mind that drew me in.

How do I put this gently? Slewfoot is bleak. It’s bleakness inside of pain, submerged in darkness, inside of a grey-colored moon. How’s that for bleak? I enjoy bleak when it’s executed well, and Slewfoot is executed perfectly.Continue Reading

Review: Palace of the Drowned by Christine Mangan

cover of Palace of the Drowned by Christine ManganPalace of the Drowned by Christine Mangan
Flatiron Books (June 2021)
320 pages; hardcover $20.57; paperback $16.99; e-book $14.99
Reviewed by Janelle Janson

When I saw Christine Mangan had a new book coming out, I jumped at the chance to read it. I read her debut, Tangerine, three years ago and really enjoyed it. After finishing her newest novel, Palace of the Drowned, I realized Mangan has found her niche. Hollywood film-style noir, brimming with atmosphere, and mixed with slow burning tension is what Mangan does best.Continue Reading

Review: The Wind in My Heart by Douglas Wynne

cover of The Wind in My Heart by Douglas WynneThe Wind in My Heart by Douglas Wynne
Crystal Lake Publishing (January 2021)
362 pages; $8.75 paperback; e-book $3.99
Reviewed by Janelle Janson

Douglas Wynne’s The Wind in My Heart has a fun premise and is a quick read! This story kept me engaged with its touch of mystery and quirky characters.

Miles Landry is the private detective at Insight Detective Agency. Known around the local bar scene as “Dirty Laundry,” he tends to handle extramarital affairs. Immediately after a scorned woman shows up at his office to teach him a lesson, he receives a call for an unusual job. A Buddhist monk named Jigme Rinpoche wants to hire him to find a former student’s reincarnated soul. A series of murders against gang members have popped up in Chinatown, and he believes this former student is responsible. Even though Landry thinks this monk is wasting his time, he’s curious nonetheless and heads to the temple for the meeting.Continue Reading

Review: The Gulp by Alan Baxter

cover of The Gulp by Alan BaxterThe Gulp by Alan Baxter
Independently Published (January 2021)
316 pages; paperback $14.25; e-book $4.99
Reviewed by Janelle Janson

Alan Baxter is a relatively new author for me, but I’ve been impressed with everything I’ve read so far. His newest short story collection, The Gulp, is most certainly my favorite book to date. With five novellas all woven together within a common setting, this collection delighted as much as it intrigued me.Continue Reading

Review: Behemoth by HP Newquist

cover of Behemoth by HP NewquistBehemoth by HP Newquist
Bloodshot Books (October 2019)
362 pages; paperback $16.99; e-book $3.99
Reviewed by Janelle Janson

Nothing freaks me out but also intrigues me more than a cult. They are just so fascinating. What kind of cult? Is it murderous? Doomsday? Is it polygamist? How do they brainwash people? Or better yet, is it a religious cult with the most insane secret I’ve ever read? Well folks, buckle up because this one is a doozy.Continue Reading

Interview: Talking Paperbacks (and Pugs) with David Sodergren

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photo of author David Sodergren and his pug dog, Boris
David Sodergren and Boris

I have been a Night Worms customer for two years and on their review team for one. The Night Worms have opened up a new world for me and introduced me to some incredible indie publishers and authors. And somewhere in my travels through the world of indie horror, I found a real talent: David Sodergren.

I have read all of his books: Night Shoot, The Forgotten Island, Dead Girl Blues, and his newest, Maggie’s Grave. What did I think of them, you ask? Well, I gave every single book five stars. His words leap right off the page and take us on cinematic horror adventures. It’s a unique writing style that I can’t get enough of! His stories are always perfectly paced, with plenty of gore, highly addictive, and tremendously fun to read. Gore, violence, graphic, uncomfortable scenes—it’s all there, and whatever your comfort level is, I promise you won’t want to look away until you reach the end.Continue Reading

Review: Blood Lake Monster by Renee Miller

cover of Blood Lake Monster by Renee MillerBlood Lake Monster by Renee Miller
Unnerving Books (July 2020)

116 pages; $11.49 paperback; $3.99 e-book
Reviewed by Janelle Janson

If you’ve yet to read any of the Rewind or Die series put out by Unnerving, you are surely missing out. I am obsessed with this retro b-movie horror cinema-style series, and if you love brilliant female horror writers, then this is the collection for you! Renee Miller’s Blood Lake Monster is the twelfth publication and the sixth title I’ve read, but I plan to collect all of the paperbacks because…have you checked out these covers?! My favorites thus far are Food Fright, Cirque Berserk, and All You Need Is Love and a Strong Electric Current, but they have all been horror-tastic!Continue Reading

Review: Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

cover of Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Mexican Gothic, by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Del Rey (June 2020)

320 pages; $16.20 hardcover; $11.99 e-book
Reviewed by Janelle Janson

Mexican Gothic has been hyped to the extreme for at least a year, so my expectations going in were high. And even though they were high, they were never unrealistic as I already knew Moreno-Garcia to be a talented writer. But when this book took an unexpected and interesting turn, combined with a surprising amount of gore, I knew I had found a winner.Continue Reading

Review: Dead Girl Blues by David Sodergren

cover of Dead Girl Blues by David SodergrenDead Girl Blues by David Sodergren
Independently Published (March 2020)

275 pages; $9.99 paperback; $2.99 e-book
Reviewed by Janelle Janson

Dead Girl Blues is another knockout book from Scottish indie horror author David Sodergren. And let me say the cover artwork by Connor Leslie matches the story so perfectly. Its eye-catching yellow cover, with hints of retro-styled red, spoke to me on many levels and tickled my 1970s pulp horror-loving fancy…and then I opened the book. Once I started reading, I was overwhelmed by the story and further impressed.Continue Reading

Review: Until Summer Comes Around by Glenn Rolfe

cover of Until Summer Comes Around by Glenn RolfeUntil Summer Comes Around by Glenn Rolfe
Flame Tree Press (May 2020)

288 pages; $24.95 hardcover $14.95 paperback; $6.99 e-book
Reviewed by Janelle Janson

Glenn Rolfe’s Until Summer Comes Around is an all-consuming, 1980s coming-of-age, nostalgic, vampire extravaganza of a story. I “summer breezed” right on through this entire book, and much like the vampires in this story, I was bloodthirsty for more.Continue Reading

Review: Strange Ways by Gray Williams

cover of Strange Ways by Gray WilliamsStrange Ways by Gray Williams
Canelo (June 2020)

300 pages; $3.99 e-book
Reviewed by Janelle Janson

Strange Ways is the second book in the Black Market Magic series. I managed to read both books, including the first, The End of the Line. Even though I’m a reader who can skip around in a series, these books are short and easy to read. So in this review, there will be no question as to whether I understood the author’s foundational ideas or intentions.Continue Reading