All posts by Into The Macabre

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Halloween Carnival Volume Three

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The third installment in the Halloween Carnival series. McBride’s is the anchor in this installment, but newcomers, Armstrong and Grant, give nice little additions as well. Let’s get right into them:

 

The Way Lost – Kelley Armstrong

Every year, in the town of Franklin, a child disappears. No one talks about it and everyone goes about their business. Dale Tucker knows what happens. Or does he?
A fun tale of small town legend meets reality.

4.5 out of 5 stars

 

La Calavera – Kate Maruyama

A roommate is a little too obsessive over her friend getting a boyfriend and moving on with her life. An okay story that you knew how it was going to end long before it did.

3 out of 5 stars

 

The Devil’s Due – Michael McBride

The small town of Pine Springs, CO has enjoyed over a century of prosperity. On Halloween, it’s time to pay for that prosperity. But this Halloween, Thom isn’t willing to pay the price. Great story telling that only McBride can do.

5 out of 5 stars

 

A Thousand Rooms of Darkness – Taylor Grant

Anne suffers from a debilitating phobia of Halloween. Her family members were killed in freak accidents, all on the October 31st. She decides to move to Colorado for a fresh start, but the holiday is fast approaching. Bad stuff starts happening and Anne is slowly consumed with dread. The story seemed slow until the ending which brought a whole new light to the tale. Loved it’s uniqueness.

4 1/2 out of 5 stars

 

The Last Night of October – Greg Chapman

An elderly invalid anxiously awaits the nightmare from his past to visit his door on Halloween. Oh where to start with this one? Let me start by saying that I think this was a decent story. It had many elements that I would’ve enjoyed a whole lot more if the delivery was better. Let me explain. First, Chapman didn’t do his homework with his dates. If you’re going to do a flashback to a bygone era, get the information right. When he goes back to set up how Gerald’s loathing of Halloween came to be, he uses the year 1952. He then goes on to describe Gerald’s new friend wearing a Minnesota Twins hat. The old Washington Senators didn’t relocate to Minnesota and become the Twins until 1961. He then describes how the neighbor boys talked back and forth between their bedrooms with walkie talkies. Those types of wireless walkie talkies weren’t available until the 1960s. The ones from the early 1950s had wires that connected to them and didn’t use antennas. If it were only those two items, I’d still think the story was sloppy, but I could still overlook it. What I can’t overlook is the dialogue between the characters. In the beginning, Gerald and Kelli were at each other’s throats. Gerald was the crotchety old man that just wanted her out of the house. Then, once they’re trapped, he immediately calms down and begins talking completely calm to her which leads into him spilling his guts to let the reader in on the backstory. Again, sloppy delivery. There was such an abrupt shift in his disposition that my suspension of disbelief crashed and it could never get back on track. This was only one example of the many times this happened and it made what had the makings of a really fun story. To me, a story like this that has so much potential but doesn’t deliver is much more frustrating than a story that completely stinks with very little redeeming qualities.

2 out of 5 stars

 

Overall, a decent collection marred by a couple of clunkers. Still worth picking up, if only for McBride’s tale.

3 3/4 out of 5 stars

 

You can also follow my reviews at the following links:

https://kenmckinley.wordpress.com

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The Girl Next Door – Jack Ketchum

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Ketchum was a man way ahead of his time. In 1989, he wrote The Girl Next Door. There was nothing on the shelves remotely like it by other authors. There was nothing as brutal, as gut-wrenching, or emotionally draining as The Girl Next Door. This kind of fiction wouldn’t see the light of day for another 10-20 years and no one has done it as well as Ketchum did almost 30 years ago.

Meg and her sister Susan’s parents are killed in an automobile accident. They come to live next door to 12-year old David. Ruth, a single-mom whose rough-around-the-edges demeanor always made her home inviting to David and his peers. You could sneak a beer, take a drag off a cigarette and she wouldn’t care. When the girls move in, David begins to have a crush on Meg. But as time passes, it is apparent that all is not well in the household. Meg begins to confide in David of Ruth abusing her. David can’t believe it. Ruth? The mom that was so fun to be around? Soon David discovers that the stories are true and they’re only the beginning of a long, downward spiral into horrific abuse and madness, and all he can do is watch it unfold in front of his very eyes.

The Girl Next Door is loosely based off a true story that took place in 1965. Just knowing that makes the world seem like a darker place. These types of stories weren’t told on the news back then like they are now. This was a time where skeletons were kept in the closet and people turned a blind eye from things they deemed to be “none of their business”. Ketchum’s story has a twisted, Lord of the Flies quality to it. Adults were trusted by children to always be right and do the right thing back then. Watching the children join in on Ruth’s madness towards the girls twists your guts with a chef’s knife. You can’t look away and just when you think it can’t get any worse…well, I’m sure you can finish that sentence yourself. The Girl Next Door is a story that will haunt me for the rest of my life. It’s that powerful.

 

5 Steel Doored Torture Chambers out of 5

 

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Episodes of Violence – David Bernstein

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I absolutely blew through Bernstein’s Episodes of Violence. I literally couldn’t put it down. There was just something about this tale that sickened me and rocked me to my core. After taking some time between finishing it and writing this review, I believe it’s simply that the story of these teenage losers going around and systematically killing for fun felt way too real. We all know kids like this. No, not necessarily first-hand knowledge that the scumbags across the street are offing random people. It’s more like that you could see these kids fly under the radar because people don’t necessarily notice them. They’re undesirables, loners, not someone that the masses pay attention to. Bernstein uses this to his advantage and paints a picture that hits a little too close to home. A little too real. A little too believable. That’s the beauty of Episodes of Violence. Be prepared to be uncomfortable when you read EoV. Be prepared to look at your neighbor kids across the street with a little more scrutiny. Are they just a bunch of misfit potheads that raise a little hell or is there more too them? You might want to make sure the doors are locked, just to be on the safe side.

 

5 Bashed Mailboxes out of 5

 

You can also follow my reviews at the following links:

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Something Violent – Kristopher Rufty

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Dr Phil meets Natural Born Killers. Sound like an odd combination? It totally works in Rufty’s Something Violent. When Jody and Seth are out on their killing sprees, they are all business. But their marriage has hit the rocks. Where do the serial killers turn to when they can’t fix their marriage on their own? They kidnap the famous marriage counselor to the stars, Ron McClure. Ron isn’t the first man to fall victim to Jody flaunting her lucious body in public. Too bad he didn’t see the taser she had hidden under her skirt. No he finds himself knocked unconscious, shoved in a trunk, and wakes up ducttaped to a chair in some unknown basement. When you counsel Hollywood’s elite, you come across some crazy clientele. But nothing could have prepared him for Seth and Jody.

Something Violent worked for me. The premise is just crazy enough to make you shake your head, but Rufty plays the whole thing straight and makes the streaks of black comedy work. As the demented couple unfurl their story to the counselor, the human element comes through. Sure they’re warped as it gets, but in a very odd way, you start to feel for them, care about them. That’s what makes the whole thing work. If all they are is monsters kidnapping a doctor, all you would have is the shock value without any substance. Rufty shows how nutcase like Seth and Jody can be three dimensional. Brilliant. Kudos to Rufty for making this a fun, page-turner.

 

4.5 Purple Wigs out of 5

 

You can also follow my reviews at the following links:

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https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/5919799-ken-mckinley

Subhuman – Michael McBride

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Subhuman by Michael McBride. Wow! Where to start with this one?? There is so much good stuff going on between the covers of McBride’s latest offering, and first in the Unit #51 series. You have various experts in their respective scientific fields anonymously brought together to a location in Antarctica that shows remnants of being at one time an old Nazi outpost. Mega-rich venture capitalist, Hollis Richards has brought them all here to help him unlock the mystery of misshapen humanoid skulls found in an underground lake deep below the ice. These types of remains have been discovered before at locations around the globe and thought to be a genetic mutation. But Richards knows better. He knows that the knowledge to build these ancient pyramids and temples didn’t come from man alone. It came from the sky. He knows this because he was visited many years ago when he was a child in the middle of the night, and he’s been searching for them ever since. He knows that underneath the Antarctic ice lies the clues to an ancient civilization that predates anything we’be ever discovered before and his assembled band of scientists are going to help him prove it.

Subhuman is an extremely intelligent tale told with heaps of atmosphere and great characters. McBride has really done his homework to create this one. The science is straight out of the History Channel’s Ancient Aliens, yet is hard to refute. Fringe? Yes, but completely believable in McBride’s expert direction. It has a textbook quality to it, without losing you by talking over your head. Any alien horror story set in Antarctica would be impossible to do without having comparisons to John Carpenter’s The Thing, and thats perfectly fine with me. The Thing is easily on my top three of horror movies ever and I welcome a story with some of those same shades that I love so well. McBride delivers. The hostile and lonely location. The fridgid weather that leaves you feeling like you’re ten minutes away from freezing to death. The allure of the discoveries waiting to be made underneath the ice. Such great stuff. And the characters don’t disappoint either. Richards comes across as the lovable combination of Bill Gates and Richard Attenborough’s Dr. Hammond in Jurassic Park. The scientists all feel realistic with their quirks, yet don’t come off as a cardboard stereotypes. if you can’t tell, I’m pretty geeked about this book. You should be too. It’s amazing and I’m excited that it’s the first of a series. I can’t wait until spring for the next one.

 

5 Misshaped Skulls out of 5

 

You can also follow my reviews at the following links:

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Blanky – Kealon Patrick Burke

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Steve doesn’t think his life can get any worse. His nine-month-old baby girl mysteriously dies in her crib. His grief stricken wife, Lexi, can’t bear to be around Steve and the house where their daughter died. So, she moves back in with her parents, leaving Steve all alone to face the misery by himself. Then the mysterious baby blanket shows up out of the blue. Where did that come from? Didn’t that become lost when they were clearing their daughter’s room of all the belongings? What is going on? Are we starting to see a man’s frayed ends of sanity?

Blanky is a boot kick to the solar plexus as the reader sucks wind, trying to find respite from Steve’s all-encompassing world of grief. The thought of losing your only child, just as their life got started, is a parent’s worst nightmare. To have to go through that grief alone would be hell on earth. Burke doesn’t let up. He provides what looks like an escape hatch for our protagonist and then promptly smashes his fingers with the lid when he tries to use it as an exit. Another thing that I’m impressed with is Kealon’s word choice throughout the story. He flexes his wordsmith muscle without coming across as frivolous or arrogant. A dark, disturbing story that was perfect with Halloween around the corner.

5 Hidden Baby Teeth out of 5

 

You can also follow my reviews at the following links:

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Bone White – Ronald Malfi

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A man shambles down out of the hills of northern Alaska and into the only diner in the tiny, fly-speck sized town of Dread’s Hand. He sits down at the counter and casually orders his favorite, hot cocoa. The waitress is trembling as she brings it to him. As Joe Mallory is enjoying his drink with dried blood all over his shirt, he suggests to the waitress that she contact the local law officer, that he has finished burying five bodies in the hills and he’d like to turn himself in.

Paul Gallo watches the news report back in Maryland of the Dread’s Hand murders and immediately takes interest. His twin brother, Danny, disappeared in the remote town over a year ago and no one has seen or heard from him since. He quickly flies out there to see if his brother is one of the dead and to finally get some answers. However, the residents of Dread’s Hand aren’t much for strangers in their town and Paul Gallo doesn’t belong there.

So far, Bone White is my favorite read of 2017. Malfi does an incredible job at painting the bleakness of the desolate Alaskan town and the haunting foothills that stretch out from it. My emotions ranged across the spectrum as I read the story. There aren’t many places that are truly isolated anymore. Dread’s Hand is the exception and Malfi plays it up like a maestro. The whole time I was reading Bone White, I kept having visualizations of 30 Days of Night. Shoddy cell phone coverage, vast expanses of nothingness, residents few and far between and no one is interested in helping Paul solve his mystery. All the while, in the background, you can feel the dread and danger mounting, but still out of reach. You know something is coming, but what? If you have yet to become acquainted with Malfi’s work, I highly recommend it and Bone White is a fantastic place to start.

5 Crosses in the Yard out of 5

 

* This ARC was provided by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

 

You can also follow my reviews at the following links:

https://kenmckinley.wordpress.com

http://intothemacabre.booklikes.com

https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/5919799-ken-mckinley