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The Grieving Stones by Gary McMahon


A small therapy group arrives at Grief House hoping that a combination of isolation and hard work will help them begin the healing process each of them so desperately needs.
But their presence has awakened something in the old dwelling. Something linked to the ancient stone megaliths at the rear of the property and a terrible crime, committed centuries before.
Before the weekend is over, the group will learn the secrets of the Grieving Stones, and come to understand the true meaning of transformation”.

 

The lastest offering from Horrific Tales Publishing and I can honestly state, this is probably the best novella I have ever read, I could gush on and on. Even the cover art is fabulous. However, lets keep the gushing brief, well, I will try. I absolutely love Gary McMahon's work, he is a super talented author, experienced and above all else a master at human emotion. I feel a real connection with his books, it is as if he has tapped into my imagination, so much so, I forget it is an actual book I am reading and not a dream. McMahon has produced some remarkable titles, 'The End' I could not get out my head for weeks.

 

In the grieving stones, McMahon's characters are real, with specific back stories, desires and decisions. As he sets the scene, the author’s narrative enthrals us. He continuously reinforces the human imagination and its limitless potential through his words. I found this hard to put down and I am easily spooked. I did try to banish the book under a pile of other, less frightening reads, however, its compulsive allure called to me. I knew I had to stop myself from reading the book just before bedtime, so, I read it in one sitting with as few interruptions as possible as I became quickly sucked into the dark days within it's pages.

 

The central character of the story is Alice, a recent widow, who joins a therapy group, to assist her after the loss of her husband, led by Clive, a counsellor. Clive often holds weekend therapeutic group therapy, on an invite only basis, and his latest is at a house in the countryside. His good friend recently inherited the large and old building. The deal being, help clean up the house and have a weekends group therapy, what could possibly go wrong, ay? A very nice twist awaits you.

 

Gary is master of subtleties, who takes us from characters suffering with grief and carrying a whole lot of baggage to boot, to creepy scenes in the house, to the horrific scenes as the story unfolds, and then back again without the jarring of a note out of place or a scene that doesn’t belong.

 

The conversations between the characters are sometimes poignant and always fascinating, this is something I love about this author, and this talent runs through all his work.

 

Simply wonderfully terrifying and deliciously gory enough to keep every horror fan happy. 

 

As one would imagine with the title of the book, you do come away with a greater appreciation of life. Gary has a deep understanding of the human psyche and grief, this is where he engages with his readers. That large gaping hole that is left after the loss of a loved one, the vulnerability that is left behind, is used cleverly to twist and turn this little novella into a masterpiece. Those stones and that house harbour something far more than their name suggests.

 

My one and only criticism, why isn't this is a novel.

 

I highly recommend. Available on Amazon in hardback & kindle.



Nothing Lasting by Glen Krisch

 

Twenty-five years ago, Noah Berkley’s childhood was stolen from him.

Twenty-five years ago, he lost the first and only love of his life.

Twenty-five years ago, someone died at his hand.

Only now—after all these years and spurred by the death of his father—does Noah Berkley believe he can face the memories he buried in the winter of 1984.

But sometimes memories aren’t the only things we recover when we reopen the wounds of the past…

 

Nothing Lasting has been available on Kindle for a while and now Cemetery Dance have released a limited hard backed edition. Cemetery Dance has a long history of producing gorgeous editions by legends in the genre, including, Stephen King.

 

Ever wonder what secrets people keep?” This line is the core of the book.

 

This is not a story of non stop violence and horror for the sake of it, but a well thought out one. Characters with substance, characters who are real, characters who are easy to bring to the imagination and a horror that is slowly built up around a clever, descriptive and disturbing story line. Whatever your thoughts are on horror, Krisch's novel probably will not convert you either way, but this story certainly deserves it's spot in the genre.

 

What I loved about this story is Krisch's ability to whisk me back to 1984. I was 14, so only a couple of years older than young Noah Berkley. It is not easy to write from a 12 year old boys perspective, unless you are very young yourself. I must say, Krisch has a very good memory, capturing life in 1984 with the same ease as the highs and lows of a boy. I had completely forgotten what it was like to have such freedom and to come and go as I pleased whilst my parents worked, much the same as young Noah.


Krisch tells the story of 
Noah Berkley, whose childhood is torn apart by the death of his Grandfather and parents divorce. He and his Father move into his Grandfathers house, a house Noah only has vague memories of. Memories of visiting his Grandfather when he was alive. Noah's Father is a Fireman working shifts and not always around to keep an eye on Noah. Noah's Father also begins dating the neighbour, something Noah resents. The neighbour has a son, Derek. Noah met Derek Dooling when visiting his Grandfather in the past and Derek quickly establishes himself as a friend. Derek, at first appears to embody the freedom and welcome release that Noah is looking for, but looks can be deceiving. Noah, neglected by his acrimoniously divorced parents and beginning the first rung towards puberty, is easy prey for Derek, a magnetic figure.

 

Derek Dooling is not a well rounded or well behaved young man. It does not take long for Noah to dislike Derek, as he changes from a young man full of mischief, into a lad with serious psychopathic tendencies.

 

During this time of unsettlement Noah meets his first love, Jenny Sparrow, another neighbour, Jenny is a year older than Noah, but their friendship shows promise of something much more. Noah's connection with Jenny brings him into a better place, if only for a short time.

 

The small town that Noah and his Father now reside in, is experiencing a spate of missing children. The police have nothing and residents become fearful and paranoid. Young Noah is a teenage boy full of emotions that he struggles to make sense of. He just does not realise he is part of something far, far darker than just coming of age.

 

Nothing Lasting is an engaging and scintillatingly intelligent read.

 

Limited edition copies are avialable direct from http://www.cemeterydance.com/page/CDP/PROD/krisch01

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Always a Dancer and Other Stories by Steve Lockley

 

A collection of tall tales from author Steve Lockley that ranges from the whimsical to the horrifying, from wistful to chilling. There are dark tales of old rites and all manner of men and beasts to encounter. Featuring some established favourites and some never before released stories collected together for the first time. 

 

I've made no secret that I am a fan of Novellas and Novelettes, but I've never been a huge fan of collections of shorts. I love a novel first and foremost, but in this fast paced and busy life I lead I do not always have time for a novel every few days, as my preferred reading style is to sit in my comfy leather recliner and read for a few hours straight – if only I could do this every day (only reading a few pages a day never gives me the chance to really feel the book). This is where the short story format grabs my attention. I can read them whilst eating lunch, or in the morning over a coffee. Its certainly preferable than scrolling through other peoples lives on social media. I vaguely met Steve at Bristol Horror whilst he chatted with Graeme Reynolds. I did feel somewhat fan girl, particulalry with his Doctor Who connections. I saw him again at Fantasy Con and we exchanged polite smiles and nods of the head, fan girl firmly restrained by this point. If his social media is anything to go by, he seems a very nice chap, people speak well of him, so I was drawn to giving his book a go. Added bonus, it's printed by Adele from Fox Spirit books. Fox Spirit incidentally produce well written work. If you enjoy something more professional, where this form of art is at it's peak, hen I highly recommend her award winning small press. It is a pleasure to read from different styles of horror. Horror is not always ghouls, flesh ripping monsters or torture porn without meaning. Horror can be real life, what scares us, moves our soul, pulls at our heart strings or adds to our intelligence. Steve Lockley is the type of writer whom falls into this category. Always a Dancer and Other Stories is eloquently written, his words flow across the pages and before I knew it, I was half way through.Each story begins with a short paragraph from Lockley, I enjoyed this, seeing where it was first published or naming the stories after songs.

 

The book starts with Always a Dancer. This short led me into a false sense of security. The story of a love triangle. It was beautifully written and reminded me of a meme I had seen on Facebook recently.

 

“The bigger the issue, the smaller you write. Remember that. You don't write about the horrors of war. No. You write about a kid's burnt socks lying on the road. You pick the smallest manageable part of the big thing, and you work off the resonance.”

- Richard Price

 

However, it was a light read, which meant I was hardly ready for the next – Funny Weather. Funny Weather is the story of a boy named Tim, and his interest in Gypsies. Set in 1963, I saw and heard every line, the heavy tick of Gran's clock, the creaking gate, the starlings, the bright red headscarf, It seemed as though I could smell the summer air. Utter brilliance! Quite a change from the first story, but it sets the pace well for what comes next.

 Wassailing tells the story of a recent divorcee from the city, whom purchases a cottage with adjoining orchard in the country. I loved this story, as we have this custom where I live. In fact I was sat outside whilst reading this, my background music - the swallows that nest here every year. This really added ambience to my read. I am just pleased Wassailing around here, is not done in this particular way.

 Life in a Northern Town – this was my absolute favourite, but then I love a good Werewolf story. I cannot believe Lockley has been sitting on this little gem. Told from Jack's point of view, I felt the kids fear, their only place of safety the local church! Excellent read that had my heart racing. Nice little twist at the end, this would make a fantastic Novella.

 The First Time – weaves the tale of a boys first sexual encounter. Real, spooky and a day that would come back to haunt him.

 This Masquerade was a very short but sweet tale that I felt should have been longer. Junior Doctors enjoying a New Years Eve party in two short pages did not give me feel enough for the story.

 Fairground Attraction – Alan is a young man with a birthmark, until Trish shows him a special mirror. Quirky little read.

 The Mermaid Tears – Not a favourite read out of all these excellently written stories, however, it has enough of a turn of events to keep it's rightful place within Lockely's collection.

 The Long Wait – Not going to lie, this made me laugh. Zombie erotica, that is all I will say.

 When Two Hearts Beat in Time – A man trapped in a marriage with a woman, when he meets young Henri, their hearts, “every now and then fall in time.”

 The Last Frost was sad, poignant and quite creepy. A ghost story surrounding loss.

 Life and Life Only – what a wonderfully weird fairy tale about the circle of life.

 Crow – I don't like crows, in particular ones called The “Corpse Bird”. This story was incredibly sad, it made me cry, which I might add is not the look I was going for at work, a warning for waterproof mascara would have been useful.

 Sea Monkeys – was my least favourite. From the washed up body to the detective, great attention to detail went into the caricaturisation, but it needed more padding at the end, as I felt it came to an immediate stop when it had the potential to be so much more

 Imaginary friends - Mr Bobo gave me terrible dreams, so thanks for that Lockley. I didn't see the end coming, this really is a dark and horrific tale of childhood imaginary friends.

 Don't leave me down here - tells us the story of miners becoming trapped. Another beautifully written but incredibly sad tale.

The Love Of The Dead by Craig Saunders

 

When Beth Willis, who normally speaks for the deceased, is given a message from a dead medium, she steps beyond her world, into the spirit realm. D.I. Coleridge is a man marking time, until a call from Beth gives him a lead on an elusive killer who takes trophies from his victims. A killer who walks through both worlds, taking lives. A man with powers no mortal can possess. A man, but something else, too. If Coleridge and Beth are to survive, they must understand him...but some men cannot be fought. Some creatures cannot be bested. Death calls on all in time. But if Beth and Coleridge are to win, they have no choice but to call on Death themselves.

 

Why has it taken me this long to discover Saunders? I attended his reading at FCON and I quickly entered his name on my "to read" list. I am delighted to have finally found the time to read his work. I wasn't sent this to review, by the way, I downloaded of my own fruition and pleased I did.

Horror, supernatural thriller and crime drama, this cross genre tale is wickedly deceptive as it takes us on a chaotic journey that crosses worlds from the dead to the living. 

Beth is a reclusive medium whom speaks to the dead. With a tragic past, she attempts to heal her soul by immersing herself in alcohol. She lives with her teenage son, Miles, in a quirky two-bedroom cottage on the coast of Norfolk. 

Beth receives a message from the dead world in which she regularly converses. Beth knows this message is directly related to recent gruesome murders. Norfolk has a serial killer, who targets psychics, and takes trophies from his victims. With possible information that may give the police a lead, she contacts DI Coleridge. 

Coleridge is an overweight detective, biding his time after twenty-five years on the force. Suffering with self-esteem issues and depression, a marriage down the pan, he's hardly the most honest detective on the force. However, I felt empathy towards this character - a sign of a good writer. Beth is also not without her own issues; Beth has a tragic back story. If I say too much here it will spoil the plot. 

Whilst this book has elements of thriller and crime drama, let's not forget it is horror. The main protagonist is a chillingly evil creature that will fill your veins with fear. With the ability to cross worlds he possesses powers no mortal can have. Saunders delves into a being that was around before humans existed. 

My only criticism was the use of American words and dialogue, yet set in England. Such as cell phone. 

Saunders has a dazzling gift, effortlessly conjuring the sights and sounds of Norfolk. Characters are able to stand on their own two feet and have their own organic relationships with each other. Good fiction comes from the authors artistry and that Saunders has in abundance. 

The story concludes on an uplifting note, but this happy ending is punctured, knowledge I will let you learn for yourselves. 

A fiendishly complex novel that you will struggle to put down. I look forward to all the other books in this talented author’s future.

 

About the Author: Craig Saunders is the author of over thirty novels and novellas, first published with 'Rain' in 2011. Stories include 'Deadlift', 'Vigil', 'Damned to Cold Fire' and 'Masters of Blood and Bone'. He writes dark fiction/horror with an element of crime or mystery, and epic fantasy. Born in 1972 in London, England, Craig studied Japanese and Law in Cardiff, Wales.


Trying To Be So Quiet by James Everington

 

The day they buried her was the first day Lizzie’s death seemed real…

With death comes a journey: a journey of silence, of ghosts and not-ghosts. Life begins to break, the cracks appearing, the meaning lost in the static of existence. And you find out whether you can come to a resolution with the absolute…

Trying to be So Quiet is an incredibly powerful story of bereavement, of mourning, of finding something amidst nothingness.

 

This utterly engrossing novel displays the insight and talent evident in Everington's other work. Trying to be so quiet – allows Everington to get to the heart of human motivation. Love and loss in abundance.

 

The skilfully constructed narrative is told in the first-person by Lizzie's husband, whose name is never mentioned. The story picks up just after her funeral and how he attempts to face life without her. Interspersed throughout are the strange happenings within their home, the home in which he and Lizzie built. In an attempt to get away from the house, he returns to work and his life begins a desolate chore - mixed with memories of their life together. His loneliness is tangible; it made me feel so sad.



The human psyche is a theme in much of Everington's work as he tests his readers psychologically. In trying to be so quiet he explores grief and the unexplained.  Everington impressively examines a wide spectrum of human emotions throughout, from rage to grief and fear. The trauma suffered in losing Lizzie is most moving, including the agonising absence he feels and the profound sense of lost love and his realisation he will never be loved like that again.



Rather than creating a simple case of goodies and baddies mixed with gore, Everington subtly examines the complexity of grief. This hugely chilling and evocative story, mixing lyrical language and lost love, is told with great psychological acuity.

 

This story, his words, and the husbands’ fate will haunt me long after I turned the last page.

 

With an introduction by Simon Bestwick, this strictly limited edition hardback is available in just 150 prints from Boo Boo books priced at £10.00

 

You can pre order your copy here Trying To Be So Quiet

Easter Eggs and Bunny Boilers: A Horror Anthology

 

Matt Shaw invites you to learn the true meaning of Easter. Yes. That's right. Easter. Learn the true meaning of Easter in this anthology featuring some of the biggest names in horror right now with authors from across the globe.  Come, take his hand, and experience demented rabbits, chocolate obsessed children drowning in their own greed, serial killers, resurrection and more in this collection guaranteed to kill the cravings of your sweet tooth. 

Featuring the authors: 
Matt Shaw     Graeme Reynolds     Luke Smitherd     Jim Goforth     Stuart Keane    Kit Power     Jack Rollins Chantal Noordeloos    Kindra Sowder     Matt Hickman     Neil Buchanan     Mark West     Michael Bray    Glen Rolfe David Owain Hughes     Rich Hawkins     Duncan Ralston     Kyle M. Scott     Duncan P. Bradshaw    J R Park   And an introduction from Gingernuts of Horror's head honcho, Jim Mcleod!

 

Easter Eggs and Bunny Boilers is an anthology featuring some of the best authors in the horror genre to date.

 

For a mere 99p you can read: Graeme Reynolds, Glen Rolfe, Kit Power, Chantal Noodeloos and many more. Published by the king of extreme horror, Matt Shaw Publications, and with the added bonus of a story by the man himself. What's not to like?

 

This anthology was quite a mixed bag with different styles of writing that took me on a surprising journey. Some stories grossed me out and others were emotional.

 

The books opens with an introduction from Jim McLeod of Gingernuts of Horror, reminding us all of the importance of Easter and ginger-haired people.

 

Whilst I enjoyed the whole book, I've chosen some of my favourite stories to write about. In no particular order:

 

After a short write up from Matt Shaw, we are properly introduced to the book via Matt's story – Desserts. A change in Matt's usual style, I found this story emotive. For me, this is his best to date and a style I would like to read again. The story centres around young Justin, whom is growing up in a household of warring parents. Justin says it's fine if he does not receive an Easter Egg, but when one arrives he is such a loving boy he wants to share the joy with his parents. Bring some happiness to the household by sharing his chocolate. Unfortunately, this does not go quite the way you would think. This story is definitely one of my favourites in the book.

 

Little Bunny by Glen Rolfe creeped me out. Marlow's story of following a bunny into a haunted wood and finding her dead sister was deliciously scary.

 

Deb loves Robbie by Mark West was as always with Mark, a beautifully crafted story with characterisation we can all emphasise with. The story is, yes, one of love, but it's also gritty with an Easter edge.

 

The Chicken and the Three Gods by Kit Power was delightfully weird and gross. A story of chickens and their revenge on a toddler was so bizarre it ended up being in my favourites.

 

Help Me by Neil Buchanan – OK, this may be biased, but the story is well written. Neil works his sentences hard. Help Me centres around Joe, a drug addict, and how he finds himself part of something greater than his two-day bender.

 

Easter Eggs by Chantal Noodeloos is my favourite. Polly, Lukas and their unborn baby's story is scarily terrifying and above all Chantal makes you feel her characters. The emotion is almost palatable. Easter Eggs is a Tour de Force in sustained horror. Absolutely the best story I've read by this author to date.

 

The weakest story for me is Kindra Sowder's Wicker Basket. I didn't really understand it and I'm sorry to say it wasn't the best written. When your story is sitting in an anthology with the likes of Stuart Keane, Glen Rolfe, Michael Bray, Mark West and Rich Hawkins you do need to ensure your story is going to hold its own.

 

For the rest, even though they didn't make my top six, that does not in any way reflect how good they are. This is by far, the best anthology I have ever read – and I have read a lot! Some of the stories are beautifully realised and others predictable. There are a lot of laughs in this book, but it is also a work out for the mind. Read it slowly, enjoy each story, as anthologies of this calibre do not come around often.

 

Easter Eggs and Bunny Boilers brings horror back into its rightful place – the readers imagination.

 

Available in both paperback and kindle editions.