Horror October: I Am Behind You by John Ajvide Lindqvist #BookReview #HO17

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Title: I Am Behind You
Author: John Ajvide Lindqvist
Series: Platserna #1
Format: Digital ARC, 416 pages
Publication Details: September 7th 2017 by riverrun
Genre(s): Horror
Disclosure? Yep! I received a free copy in exchange for an HONEST review.

Goodreads 

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Molly wakes her mother to go to the toilet. The campsite is strangely blank. The toilet block has gone. Everything else has gone too. This is a place with no sun. No god.

Just four families remain. Each has done something to bring them here – each denies they deserve it. Until they see what’s coming over the horizon, moving irrevocably towards them. Their worst mistake. Their darkest fear.

And for just one of them, their homecoming.

This gripping conceptual horror takes you deep into one of the most macabre and unique imaginations writing in the genre. On family, on children, Lindqvist writes in a way that tears the heart and twists the soul. I Am Behind You turns the world upside down and, disturbing, terrifying and shattering by turns, it will suck you in.

Review

 

I’ve had a hit and miss (but mostly miss), relationship with Lindqvist so far to be honest, but I loved the sound of this book. And I’m pleased to report that this has been my favourite of his so far!

I Am Behind You, is hands down one of the weirdest books I’ve ever read, and thus a perfect read for a dark October evening.

It’s about a myriad of different families who wake up in their holiday caravans to find that the caravan park is gone. They’ve been moved, or have they? There is nothing around, and when they drive, they don’t get anywhere. The ground is strange and smells like blood.

Not only that, but there are these white human-like creatures stalking around. Before long, the families realise that they all see these creatures as different things; a tiger, a salesman, John Wayne characters… what does it all mean?

And then it starts to rain acid.

Out of all of the Lindqvist books I’ve read, I Am Behind You was definitely the most readable. I don’t know whether the translation was just better this time, but the pages flew by. I was totally submerged in this strange, creepy place and had to keep reading to get to the bottom of it.

But here lies the problem. We don’t get to the bottom of it, of anything really. Which was really frustrating. There’s only so many crazy things that can happen without even an iota of an explanation before you stop caring. But read on I did!

Apparently this is the first in a series, so maybe it will be addressed in the next book, but I wish he would have given us something more concrete as to what the hell was going on, you know!?

The star of the show were the characters for me. Each of the families bring something different, and alarming to the story. A few of them are loveable, but mainly they’re all troubled in some way, especially Molly, the token creepy child who was once left in a tunnel and has never been the same since.

I hate to liken every horror writer to Stephen King, but parts of this really did remind me of him and his great characterisation. If you liked Under the Dome, I think you’d enjoy this too.

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Don’t forget to vote in the Flash Fiction Battle!

Voting ends at 19:00 tonight.

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30 Days of Horror: #27 & #28 #30daysofhorror #HO17

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Join me for 30 Days of Horror in which we spotlight one horror book every day until we reach Halloween!

So yes, I failed to keep up with this once again, but that means you get two picks for the price of one today and tomorrow.

My first pick for day 27 is a non-fiction book that I’ve only recently come across. It’s like everything I love about trashy horror in one book!

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Available in paperback & digital, 256 pages

Published September 19th 2017 by Quirk Books

 

Take a tour through the horror paperback novels of the 1970s and ’80s . . . if you dare.

Page through dozens and dozens of amazing book covers featuring well-dressed skeletons, evil dolls, and knife-wielding killer crabs! Read shocking plot summaries that invoke devil worship, satanic children, and haunted real estate!

Horror author and vintage paperback book collector Grady Hendrix offers killer commentary and witty insight on these trashy thrillers that tried so hard to be the next Exorcist or Rosemary’s Baby. It’s an affectionate, nostalgic, and unflinchingly funny celebration of the horror fiction boom of two iconic decades, complete with story summaries and artist and author profiles.

You’ll find familiar authors, like V. C. Andrews and R. L. Stine, and many more who’ve faded into obscurity. Plus recommendations for which of these forgotten treasures are well worth your reading time and which should stay buried.

 

Goodreads // Guest Post: Paperback Lost by PG Bloodhouse

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Read this? What did you think?

My second choice for today is a book that I really enjoyed. It was much better than the film, but it was still worth a watch.

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Available in all formats incl. audio, 460 pages

Published June 19th 2014 by Orbit

Melanie is a very special girl. Dr. Caldwell calls her “our little genius.”

Every morning, Melanie waits in her cell to be collected for class. When they come for her, Sergeant Parks keeps his gun pointing at her while two of his people strap her into the wheelchair. She thinks they don’t like her. She jokes that she won’t bite, but they don’t laugh.

Melanie loves school. She loves learning about spelling and sums and the world outside the classroom and the children’s cells. She tells her favorite teacher all the things she’ll do when she grows up. Melanie doesn’t know why this makes Miss Justineau look sad.

The Girl with All the Gifts is a sensational thriller, perfect for fans of Stephen King, Justin Cronin, and Neil Gaiman.

 Goodreads // My Review

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Don’t forget to vote in the flash fiction battle!

You can catch up on all four stories here.

 

Horror October: Week #4 Wrap-up! #HO17

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The end is nigh, horror fans! And I can’t lie, I’m slightly relieved. It’s been a blast, but busy, oh so busy!

Anyway, in case you missed anything last week, here is a handy summary of all the goings-on.

Horror October Week 4

30 Days of Horror:

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Day #22 & #23: Relics & Angel of Vengeance

Day #24: There’s Someone Inside Your House

Day #25: The Hollow Girl

Day #26: Doctor Sleep

Top Ten Tuesday: Weird horror book titles

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This Week in Books 25.10.17

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Flash Fiction Battle

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Entry #3: In That Sleep of Death by Stephen Kozeniewski

Entry #4: Puppets by Gabino Iglesias

Vote for Your Winner Now!

Guest Post: Paperback Lost by PG Bloodhouse

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Lazy Saturday Review: Under My Skin by Juno Dawson

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Still to Come:

I crown the winner of the Flash Fiction Battle!

Don’t forget to vote for your favourite!

 

Flash Fiction Battle: Vote for your winner now!

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Welcome to the second annual flash fiction battle in which four brilliant independent horror authors will battle it out to be crowned the King or Queen of Horror, (well, Horror October at least). 

Horror fans, blog friends, waifs & strays; the time has come.

All four stories based on the winning theme, ‘Master of Cemeteries’ have now been posted and it’s time for you to pick your favourite.

Which story had your skin crawling, or got you reaching for a comfort blanket? Which one made you do a jaw-drop?  Or maybe one just had that extra something?

Have your say and vote for your favourite creepy quickie.


Voting ends on the 30th at 19:00 (GMT), and I will crown the winner on Halloween! All four entries are copied below in case you missed them the first time around. And if you can’t decide on a favourite you can vote for more than one story.

Please do tell us who you’ve voted for and why in the comments

#1: Holding On

by Sean Seebach

“It’s my job,” Ben said to his wife. “It has to be done.”

She tucked her face into her husband’s neck, rubbed her nose into his flannel collar, then kissed his unshaven cheek before leaving a coffee filled thermos and ham sandwich with him. The coffee would get drank. She had her doubts about the latter, noticing Ben’s flannel hanging loosely from his body. Everything had changed so quickly for them.

But she knew Ben was right. It was his job as the caretaker of Cedar Grove Cemetery to do the work that had to be done. She took a moment to gaze at the purple streaked sky before firing up the family’s 2001 Plymouth Neon, the one that fought to remain forest green against the orange colored rust, and thought about how proud she was to have Ben Taylor as her husband.

…..

Ben picked up the plastic grocery bag his wife had left him and took a squat next to the pile of dirt where he left his spade. He unscrewed the thermos cap, poured, and sipped black coffee during the chilly October twilight.

Across the street, he heard children laughing, screaming, yelling “trick or treat!” at the top of their little lungs. Visions of toddlers dressed as dinosaurs, spacemen, princesses flashed through his mind. Huddled together in small groups, holding the hands of their Mom and Dad, only to let go once they were close to a walkway that led to the porch. Then, a full on joyous sprint, high-pitched screeching, heavy breathing, wide smiles. Plastic bags decorated with witches and castles and bats and cartoonish looking boogiemen being whipped open. More smiles as handfuls of sugary goodness fell into those bags. Bags that Mom and Dad would surely have to go through once darkness fell.

His stomach turned sour.

He picked up the sandwich his wife had left him and unwrapped it. He put it to his nose and smelled it. When was the last time he ate? Ben couldn’t remember. He hadn’t eaten in so long that Ben wasn’t sure if he even liked ham anymore, let alone sandwiches.

He took a greedy bite anyway. He chomped around for a few seconds before spitting it out. He wasn’t ready to eat. Not yet. Maybe later.

The sun fell faster and soon it would be dark. If Ben didn’t get a move on, he’d be working by the light of the lantern. This was okay by him. He wanted to hear the children a little longer.

…..

The moon was almost visible now, a large white china plate hanging in the darkest sky imaginable. Gray, elongated clouds hovered in front of it. They were so close to each other they almost touched. Crickets began chattering to one another in the copse of trees close to where Ben was. Every now and then their chirps drowned out from the call of an owl. The children’s voices from across the street became nothing more than an echo. Ben picked up his spade and began to work.

He had done this so many times before. He tried to convince himself this was just like all the others. But he couldn’t fool what the heart knew. Trying to move on, to push through, was something he and his wife would have to learn as they lived. But Ben needed something to hang on to, something he could feel.

He took a moment to give his hands a break. They began to bleed in the cracks of his palms. He removed his flannel and wiped sweat from his face. When he exhaled he saw his breath and the cool air felt good. He straightened his back and glanced down and regarded the missing pooch from his beltline.

“Heck of a way to lose weight, Ben,” he said. “Didn’t even have to exercise.”

Then it came to him.

“Exercise.” He took a deep breath. “Running.”

Running was the word he needed to find the memory that he would…

“Hold on to forever. Bobby, you’re…”

“Running! Look Daddies! I’m running!” Bobby is running all right. He’s running in the backyard. His arms are outstretched along with his chubby hands. He is smiling and his head is tilted back so his eyes are squinting into the sunlight. White light enhances the child’s blonde hair, mainly at the flared ends where the wind has caught them, forcing them to flap like little wings…

“Daddies, I spin.” Bobby holds his arms up. Daddy grabs a hold of Bobby’s hands and asks him if he’s ready. “Readies,” Bobby says with a nod and a grin. Daddy plants his feet into the tall, soft green grass and begins to spin. Bobby’s feet lift from the grass and into the air. Their eyes lock onto each other. In the corners of their eyes, the world is spinning in a kaleidoscope of color: green, blue, white, brown. Daddy’s worries vanish in that moment. The envelopes stamped with PAST DUE in red letters, asking the cashier to return the snack cakes and bubble bath at the register to prevent an overdraft (just the necessities on this shopping trip, Bobby. Sorry), the anxiety from watching the price screen on the fuel pump go higher and higher are all forgotten in the whirlwind…

“Daddies, look! I fall.” Bobby falls down. “Daddies! You fall…too!” Daddy also falls, right on his back. He looks over at Bobby who has his arms once again stretched out to his side. Daddy does the same. They face each other, make eye contact and smile. Together they raise their feet to the clouds then watch the sky as the dizziness slows…

Ben finds that memory in the darkest of moments, one that he will hold on to for the rest of his life, as he spills the last of the dirt onto the gravesite with the tombstone marked:

Bobby Taylor

February 5, 2015-October 24, 2017

#2: The Master of Cemeteries

by Justin Bienvenue

I roam the land from the opening gates down to the last stone and rotting tree. I’ve been doing this for so long that I’ve lost count of exactly how long it’s been. You’d think this would be the same old routine and boring ass job but not for me. I own my craft, I appreciate every day and I love my job. Some take on this job and they get scared shitless because they think it’ll be “cool” but they don’t know, they don’t have a goddamn clue how to truly take this job seriously. I love this job because I don’t always work at the same place, no I travel and go where I’m needed. Sometimes I do return to places I’ve worked before, sure the land is the same but the work is different. Ghastly and inhuman some would say but righteous and spectacular for me.

I marvel at the opportunity to dig a hole six feet deep and bury a body into the fresh Earth. Sure there’s maggots, worms and other creatures and insects you’ve never even heard of in the ground below but after a while you don’t even notice em there. Sometimes I go lower than six feet I know it’s a bit unorthodox but I feel it’s a sign of appreciation and honor. Some I bury above six feet because I don’t think they were good in life so why should they have it good in death? What’s the big deal about not digging a body six feet and only digging it 2-4? Well let’s just say man’s best friend and mother nature usually show up to make sure they don’t enjoy their eternal slumber.

My first gig was over in Tucson. They had me bury a ruthless outlaw for gunning down eight people simply for looking at him wrong. Talk about talk being cheap. Well I don’t rightfully condone pointless killing but I felt if I didn’t bury this guy six feet that he was gonna rise up and bury my ass so I made sure he was given a proper burial. I’ve buried every sort of person, you name it. Outlaw, clown, lawyer, garbage man, mafioso, zoo keeper, heck even celebrities. Personally I could give two shits as to what their job was when they were alive but I know some people like to know so I throw it in. I used to be a bounty hunter part time but I didn’t see the point really. Bounty hunting became extinct and it got in the way of this job which has many, many parts to it.

I remember the first day I ever worked in New Orleans. They had me over at the St. Louis Cemetery. They told me it would be a bit different than what I may be used to but they had no idea who they were talking to. IF you don’t know, St. Louis is below sea level like most of the city so when there’s a massive storm or flood, the bodies go a washin’. I did my best fisherman and Charon impression and took them bodies out of the water and back into their crypts. Now for as long as I’d been on the job at that point I thought nothing could upset me but the cleanup I did that day would have given a slaughterhouse janitor the nightmares. There were bodies, limps, morbid looking faces and some of the grimiest, slimiest and slippery stench skin you’ve ever seen. Imagine putting Play-Doh under water and then rubbing it with olive oil and dead meat.

My job isn’t always that messy as I usually just patrol normal ones and do my usual maintenance. I do landscaping of the area, mow the open grass areas and keep the graves looking fresh and up to code. You always know if you’re at a cemetery that I’ve been to because it’s so clean and peaceful. It’s practically a garden only instead of flowers there’s gravestones so it’s pretty much a garden of the dead if you will. So in some ways I’d like to consider myself a gardener, only I don’t make stuff grow…or do I? In all seriousness I make sure no stone is turned, no grass gets weeds and no grave is unfilled. I don’t just harvest the land of the dead and dig their beds I also chisel their tombstones and layer the bricks and concrete in their crypts. Find me another person who does that and I’ll start digging my own grave. I just did it for fun one day when I got done early once and seeing as my stone was good and the family really enjoyed it I decided to add it to my repertoire.

Once I had to bury a famous pianist so I crafted a giant tombstone that looked like a piano. The family loved it but the people of the cemetery and the townspeople thought it was too much. They learned to appreciate it..after I told them I could make some for them when they died. I haven’t worked there too much since. As I said though I travel a lot going from graveyard to graveyard in hopes to make each one greater than the next one. I should have my own show on HGTV called “Flipping Graveyards” because I mean I’m that good at what I’d do.

I won’t need another job for as long as I live, heck I’ll probably still be doing this when I’m dead if they let me, you know the guy upstairs or the guy down below? I mean I am helping them..at least I think I am. If you need someone to take care of the deceased I’m the one you call. I have a list of titles on my resume; gravedigger, undertaker, mortician, gravestone carver, crypt builder, gardener, landscaper, embalmer, among many others. When you need a person to care for your loved ones I’m your woman, the master of cemeteries.

#3: In That Sleep of Death

by Stephen Kozeniewski

“You want to know the really perverse thing about The White City Devil?” Donnelly asked, the glee in his voice as he discussed his favorite serial killer almost palpable.

Vince shrugged as he shuffled to the other side of his kitchen to grab a mug for the loudmouthed undertaker’s coffee.  Vince always kept some beans on hand for Donnelly’s occasional visits, but he never drank anything more powerful than tea himself.  High-test upset his stomach, and he had enough trouble sleeping nights with the arthritis and everything else.

“The only thing that got him off was the sound of women screaming.  That’s why he kept doing it.  Imagine putting all that time and effort and money into making a jack shack for yourself because of a weird kink.  Eh, but it was the 1800s, after all.”

Donnelly shrugged.  Vince nodded and sat down across from his…well, he hesitated to use the word “friend,” even in his own mind, as he didn’t particularly care for the other man.  “Acquaintance” seemed too remote, considering he knew more about Donnelly than almost any man alive.  (Certainly, he spilled his guts to Vince often enough.)  “Visitor,” perhaps was a fair splitting of the difference.

Donnelly continued describing the exploits of mass murderer H.H. Holmes for more than an hour before finally asking Vince a question about himself.  In previous visits he had gone much, much longer.

“But, my God, Catapali, I have to say, I sort of get it.  After all, the work I do, the work you do.  Well, you’re so much closer to the metal, so to speak, than I am, digging all those damn graves.  I can’t even get to sleep without a fifth of Amaretto in me.  How do you sleep at night, anyway?”

Vince didn’t rush to answer.  Usually if he waited long enough, Donnelly continued on with whatever he had been blathering about.  This time, though, he was silent just long enough for it to seem rude if Vince didn’t respond.

“Noise machine.”

Vince pointed at the little box with the speaker in his bedroom.  It was visible from where they were sitting.  Donnelly nodded.

“Yeah, that makes sense.  That’s a good…I’ll have to try that.”

It was almost dark before the chatterbox mortician finally left, but Vince didn’t really mind.  He couldn’t do any more work before dark, anyway.  Not his real work, anyway.  He clambered into his pickup truck and was greeted with a thump from the pine crate in the bed.

“Easy now,” he said, putting his hand through the back window and stroking the crate, as though its inhabitant could feel his soothing touch.

The thumping didn’t stop as he drove out to the gravesite.  With the pulley system he had rigged up for his truck it was no trouble at all to dump the pine crate into the open grave.  Getting the expensive cherry coffin from Donnelly’s funeral home up into the bed was slightly trickier, but he had done it nightly for years now and was used to it.

When Vince had first started his job, he had done the grueling work of digging a three by eight foot hole six feet deep by hand.  144 cubic feet of soil.  1100 gallons.  Every speck hauled out of the ground at the end of a spade.  Hours of work.  Now, with his backhoe, it took him forty-five minutes, tops.  Ten to cover it back up.

It was only half an hour to the abandoned dump.  Using the old car compactor, Vince squished what was left of the dearly departed Mr. Squillante into a fine red paste, strewn with splintered wood and bone.  Vince had occasionally considered selling Donnelly’s expensive coffins, but he had no idea what the market was for those, and, really, he didn’t need the money.  He led a simple life.

Afterward, he swung by all his usual haunts: the docks, a few crack dens, the bus station.  It seemed like slim pickings tonight, but he finally tracked down a skinny runaway peeing in the bushes outside of the homeless tent city downtown in Memorial Park.  He brought the boy back to his caretaker’s shack before nailing him into a fresh pine box for tomorrow.  By three in the morning he had finished digging all the graves for tomorrow.

Vince trudged into his bedroom, feeling every second of his sixty-seven years on this Earth.  It seemed like all he ever did anymore was work his fingers to the bone, and yet no matter how tired he was he could never sleep a wink at night without his noise machine.  It wasn’t a store-bought device with a pre-recorded track, though, as he had let Donnelly assume.  The transmission had to be live.  Always live.

He flicked it on.  Instantly, his bedroom was filled with the soothing sounds of nails scratching against wood, panicked low-oxygen screams, and profanity-laden threats.  Good.  The prostitute he’d buried in Squillante’s stead was just reaching that point of pitch-perfect desperation.  Vince yawned and felt his eyes grow heavy.  Better sleep while he could.  Tomorrow he’d have to do it all over again.

 

#4:Puppets

By Gabino Iglesias

“You look a little pale, Daniel,” said Frantz in his deep, rumbling voice. “This new task has you scared, man? If you wanna roll with us, you’re gonna see some weird stuff. And you’re gonna see a lot of blood. Either one bothers you, walk away now. I might forget about your face if you’re lucky.”

Daniel shook his head. Becoming a member of Zoe Pound was all he’d thought about since his older brother, Samuel, joined them at the age of fifteen. He wanted the money and the respect that came with being a member of the gang. He craved the brotherhood of other Haitians and Haitian-Americans. He dreamed about the power and women that would come his way if he didn’t mess up and did what he was told like a good soldier.

“I’m good, Frantz,” said Daniel, quickly making his way to the door. “Meeting the guy in a mausoleum is weird, but I’ve been in the streets long enough to see weirder. I’ll get you a new puppet tonight.”

Puppets. That’s what Frantz called the disposable bodies the bokor, the dark voodoo priest, got him for suicide missions. Daniel knew that getting a new one entailed killing a man and getting him into the hands of the bokor within a day. What he didn’t know was why he was getting this special task assigned to him after he’d botched a drug deal the previous week. Fratz had called it a rookie mistake, but the look in his eyes did not match the smile he shot at Daniel when he said id. In any case, Daniel was going to get in done. That would be a good start in terms of getting back on Frantz good side.

The victim had already been picked. The man was as predictable, loved his routine, and lived alone. Those were good things. They were also the things that were going to get him killed. Daniel knew he liked to park his car behind a local pizzeria before hitting the trails at a nearby park for his nightly run. It was a matter of waiting for him to show up. When he did, Daniel stepped out from behind a Dumpster, pressed his gun against the man’s temple, and made him get in the car and drive to Lincoln Memorial Cemetery in Brownsville, a huge, neglected place that also happened to be Florida’s most important primarily African-American graveyard.

There was a lot of shaking and offering on the drive there, but Daniel ignored all of it. This was a mission he would not screw up. The man at the wheel was already dead to him, nothing more than a throwaway sack of meat and bones.

The explanation Frantz had given Daniel was incredibly accurate. The newbie gangbanger kept his gun in his hoodie and made the man walk to mausoleum near the woods that backed up against the cemetery on the far left side without an issue other than the annoying crying and pleading the man was doing, not to mention he kept snorting snot into the back of his skull like a hog with the flu.

Waiting at the threshold of the dilapidated mausoleum was a wiry, light-skinned man wearing a sleeveless white shirt. His hands, arms, chest, and neck were covered in tattoos.

“You must be Daniel,” said the man.

“Yeah, you the bokor?”

“That’d be me, young blood.”

Daniel realized the man looked anywhere between 38 and 78 years old. His face sported lines that spoke of years under the sun, of hard living and strange nights, but his body looked young and powerful, almost like that of a swimmer or lightweight boxer.

“This the puppet?” the bokor asked, jutting his jaw at the sobbing man.

“Yeah,” replied Daniel.

“Get him inside and shoot him.”

The man screamed some unintelligible promises and supplications. Daniel grabbed him by the back of the neck and pushed him into the cool, moist, smelly darkness of the mausoleum.

Two bullets went into the man’s body, both close to where Daniel thought his heart should be. He dropped down and twitched twice.

“Nice work,” said the bokor from somewhere behind Daniel.

The cold, hard blade pressed against Daniel’s neck from the back.

“The ritual works better if you start it as the person is dying. It’s easier to trap their souls in their bodies for a while that way.”

Confusion and fear kept Daniel frozen. The sound the blade made as it sliced across his neck was as unexpected as the whole situation. It was somewhat of a crunch. The taste of his own blood came quickly, the warm liquid flowing down his chest.

Daniel turned around, lifted his gun, and shot the bokor in the chest, right below his right clavicle. A dark hole appeared where the bullet disappeared into his body, but no blood came. Daniel squeezed the trigger again, aiming higher this time. A second hole opened up in the bokor’s left cheek. The wound remained as dry as the one in his chest.

“Be happy Daniel, you accomplished your task tonight. In fact, you brought Frantz two puppets instead of one. I’m sure he will appreciate the gesture.”

The bokor’s laugh echoed inside the dark mausoleum as Daniel dropped to his knees, his muscles starting to lose their strength.

“Don’t despair, Daniel,” said the bokor. “Your brother asked me to make sure you could cross over as soon as your next job is done.”

Daniel couldn’t reply with a severed throat, so he closed his eyes and felt the tears roll down his face as cold darkness embraced him.

Happy Halloween!

Lazy Saturday Review: Under My Skin by Juno Dawson #HO17 #BookReview

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I started doing ‘lazy Saturday reviews’ as a way of getting reviews done in just 30 mins, and they proved to be quite popular. They are quick and snappy, and concentrate less on the plot (or content) and writing and more on my overall feelings about said book. They generally end up being a bit of a rant. My fave!

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Title: Under My Skin
Author: Juno Dawson
Series: N/A
Format: Paperback, 302 pages
Publication Details: March 5th 2015 by Hot Key Books
Genre(s): YA; Horror
Disclosure? Nope, I bought it.

Goodreads 

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Meet Molly Sue. Once she’s under your skin there’s no getting rid of her…

Seventeen-year-old Sally Feather is not exactly a rebel. Her super-conservative parents and her treatment at the hands of high school bullies means that Sally’s about as shy and retiring as they come – but all that’s about to change.

Accidentally ending up in the seedier side of town one day, Sally finds herself mysteriously lured to an almost-hidden tattoo parlour – and once inside, Sally is quickly seduced by its charming owner, Rosita, and her talk of how having a secret tattoo can be as empowering as it is thrilling.

Almost before she knows what she is doing, Sally selects sexy pin-up Molly Sue, and has her tattooed on her back – hoping that Molly Sue will inspire her to be as confident and popular as she is in her dreams.

But things quickly take a nightmareish turn. Almost immediately, Sally begins to hear voices in her head – or rather, one voice in particular: Molly Sue’s. And she has no interest in staying quiet and being a good girl – in fact, she’s mighty delighted to have a body to take charge of again. Sally slowly realises that she is unable to control Molly Sue… and before long she’s going to find out the hard way what it truly means to have somebody ‘under your skin’.

Review

This was such a fun book. Juno, (previously known as James in case you’re confused) has a great ability to make unrealistic scenarios (such as a possessed tattoo – kind of), plausible. She also manages to portray teenagers in a very real, and often edgy way.

This book flew by. The main character Sally was just the right amount of innocent school girl and teen angst time-bomb waiting to happen. Sometimes I find these types of characters annoying but I didn’t here.

Granted, the moving, talking tattoo was a bit far-fetched but there was a decent back-story to it, and as always, Juno threw in a swoon-worthy guy or two to distract us.

If you’re a fan of high school reads with a slightly darker edge, you should definitely give this one a try.

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Horror October Guest Post: Paperback Lost by PG Bloodhouse #HO17

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PG Bloodhouse is a fellow vintage bookseller and horror lover. I would buy everything in his shop if I could, so I was delighted when he agreed to share with me his two favourite, most creepiest horror paperback finds.

Paperback Lost by PG Bloodhouse

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Robert Aickman is a terribly underrated writer, whose 48 ‘strange stories’ were belatedly reissued in four lovely editions by Faber & Faber in 2014. With the boost in popularity, earlier editions were suddenly very scarce.

I have only seen this 1968 edition of ‘Powers of Darkness’ once and have held on to it with dear life. As lovely as the recent reissues are, modern book covers just cannot achieve that sense of uneasiness that 60s and 70s design could.

This cover particularly reflects Aickman’s style. His stories are unsettling and Aickman has no intention of making things easy for the reader. Often the scene is mundane, with just a sense that there is something wrong.

This subtlety was overshadowed in late 70s and 80s by the novels of more blatant British horror mongers Clive Barker and James Herbert. Their work often spelt out the horror; told you what you should be scared of.

Aickman dropped you in a peculiar place and left you to it. Alone.

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I am hard pushed to think of anything more terrifying than a little girl in an old-man mask, ascending a stately home staircase towards me. This atrocity pretty much sums up what I love about 70s book cover design.

I have always thought that horror is best served in small doses. The short story gives you little time to get accustomed with the characters and surroundings. Less chance to get comfortable.

It also means more is left to the imagination – something very few horror writers can achieve over the course of a novel. Shirley Jackson being one notable exception.

More Tales of Unease, from 1969, was the second of a trilogy of anthologies edited by John Burke, more famous for his novelisations and TV writing. This collection of stories was adapted for TV in 1970, most episodes of which were subsequently lost.

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PG Bloodhouse started selling books online this earlier this year. Accidentally stumbling into book trading in an attempt to stem (justify) his own spending….

He is currently trading on etsy at pgbloodhouse.etsy.com with a new website on the way at www.pgbloodhouse.co.uk.

You can also find him and his wonderfully creepy covers on Instagram (which is where I discovered him)!

 

Halloween sale now on, so go check out his shop!

Flash Fiction Battle: Entry #4 #HO17

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Welcome to the second annual flash fiction battle in which four brilliant independent horror authors will battle it out to be crowned the King or Queen of Horror, (well, Horror October at least). 

For the past few weeks, four horror writers have been creating an original short story based on the theme you chose.

The winning theme was ‘Master of Cemeteries’.

The vote will open tomorrow at 09:00 (GMT) for you to pick your favourite, so look out for my post. I will crown the winner on Halloween!

Without further ado, here is the final entry…

Please do let us know what you think in the comments below. Will this story get your vote?

Puppets

by Gabino Iglesias

“You look a little pale, Daniel,” said Frantz in his deep, rumbling voice. “This new task has you scared, man? If you wanna roll with us, you’re gonna see some weird stuff. And you’re gonna see a lot of blood. Either one bothers you, walk away now. I might forget about your face if you’re lucky.”

Daniel shook his head. Becoming a member of Zoe Pound was all he’d thought about since his older brother, Samuel, joined them at the age of fifteen. He wanted the money and the respect that came with being a member of the gang. He craved the brotherhood of other Haitians and Haitian-Americans. He dreamed about the power and women that would come his way if he didn’t mess up and did what he was told like a good soldier.

“I’m good, Frantz,” said Daniel, quickly making his way to the door. “Meeting the guy in a mausoleum is weird, but I’ve been in the streets long enough to see weirder. I’ll get you a new puppet tonight.”

Puppets. That’s what Frantz called the disposable bodies the bokor, the dark voodoo priest, got him for suicide missions. Daniel knew that getting a new one entailed killing a man and getting him into the hands of the bokor within a day. What he didn’t know was why he was getting this special task assigned to him after he’d botched a drug deal the previous week. Frantz had called it a rookie mistake, but the look in his eyes did not match the smile he shot at Daniel when he said id. In any case, Daniel was going to get in done. That would be a good start in terms of getting back on Frantz good side.

The victim had already been picked. The man was as predictable, loved his routine, and lived alone. Those were good things. They were also the things that were going to get him killed. Daniel knew he liked to park his car behind a local pizzeria before hitting the trails at a nearby park for his nightly run. It was a matter of waiting for him to show up. When he did, Daniel stepped out from behind a Dumpster, pressed his gun against the man’s temple, and made him get in the car and drive to Lincoln Memorial Cemetery in Brownsville, a huge, neglected place that also happened to be Florida’s most important primarily African-American graveyard.

There was a lot of shaking and offering on the drive there, but Daniel ignored all of it. This was a mission he would not screw up. The man at the wheel was already dead to him, nothing more than a throwaway sack of meat and bones.

The explanation Frantz had given Daniel was incredibly accurate. The newbie gangbanger kept his gun in his hoodie and made the man walk to mausoleum near the woods that backed up against the cemetery on the far left side without an issue other than the annoying crying and pleading the man was doing, not to mention he kept snorting snot into the back of his skull like a hog with the flu.

Waiting at the threshold of the dilapidated mausoleum was a wiry, light-skinned man wearing a sleeveless white shirt. His hands, arms, chest, and neck were covered in tattoos.

“You must be Daniel,” said the man.

“Yeah, you the bokor?”

“That’d be me, young blood.”

Daniel realized the man looked anywhere between 38 and 78 years old. His face sported lines that spoke of years under the sun, of hard living and strange nights, but his body looked young and powerful, almost like that of a swimmer or lightweight boxer.

“This the puppet?” the bokor asked, jutting his jaw at the sobbing man.

“Yeah,” replied Daniel.

“Get him inside and shoot him.”

The man screamed some unintelligible promises and supplications. Daniel grabbed him by the back of the neck and pushed him into the cool, moist, smelly darkness of the mausoleum.

Two bullets went into the man’s body, both close to where Daniel thought his heart should be. He dropped down and twitched twice.

“Nice work,” said the bokor from somewhere behind Daniel.

The cold, hard blade pressed against Daniel’s neck from the back.

“The ritual works better if you start it as the person is dying. It’s easier to trap their souls in their bodies for a while that way.”

Confusion and fear kept Daniel frozen. The sound the blade made as it sliced across his neck was as unexpected as the whole situation. It was somewhat of a crunch. The taste of his own blood came quickly, the warm liquid flowing down his chest.

Daniel turned around, lifted his gun, and shot the bokor in the chest, right below his right clavicle. A dark hole appeared where the bullet disappeared into his body, but no blood came. Daniel squeezed the trigger again, aiming higher this time. A second hole opened up in the bokor’s left cheek. The wound remained as dry as the one in his chest.

“Be happy Daniel, you accomplished your task tonight. In fact, you brought Frantz two puppets instead of one. I’m sure he will appreciate the gesture.”

The bokor’s laugh echoed inside the dark mausoleum as Daniel dropped to his knees, his muscles starting to lose their strength.

“Don’t despair, Daniel,” said the bokor. “Your brother asked me to make sure you could cross over as soon as your next job is done.”

Daniel couldn’t reply with a severed throat, so he closed his eyes and felt the tears roll down his face as cold darkness embraced him.

 The End

(938 words)

Meet the Author

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Gabino Iglesias is a writer, journalist, and book reviewer living in Austin, TX.

He’s the author of ZERO SAINTS, HUNGRY DARKNESS, and GUTMOUTH. He is the book reviews editor for PANK Magazine, the TV/film editor for Entropy Magazine, and a columnist for LitReactor and CLASH Media. His reviews have appeared in Electric Literature, The Rumpus, 3AM Magazine, and many other print and online venues.

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Gabino’s latest release is an anthology of crime stories inspired by the songs of Johnny Cash.

Amazon // Goodreads // Twitter

Check out the other entries:

Entry #1: Holding On by Sean Seebach

Entry #2: The Master of Cemeteries by Justin Bienvenue

Entry #3: In That Sleep of Death by Stephen Kozeniewski

 

The vote opens tomorrow!

30 Days of Horror #26: Doctor Sleep #HO17

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Join me for 30 Days of Horror in which we spotlight one horror book every day until we reach Halloween!

Tonight’s horror book choice is one that I was pleasantly surprised by. I’ve liked most of the Stephen King books I’ve read but perhaps not as much as some people. I didn’t know what to expect from a Shining sequel though, especially so many years after the first was published. But I thought Doctor Sleep was a great effort. And well worth revisiting.

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Available in all formats incl audio, 531 pages

Published September 24th 2013 by Scribner

 

Stephen King returns to the characters and territory of one of his most popular novels ever, The Shining, in this instantly riveting novel about the now middle-aged Dan Torrance (the boy protagonist of The Shining) and the very special 12-year-old girl he must save from a tribe of murderous paranormals.

On highways across America, a tribe of people called The True Knot travel in search of sustenance. They look harmless – mostly old, lots of polyester, and married to their RVs. But as Dan Torrance knows, and spunky 12-year-old Abra Stone learns, The True Knot are quasi-immortal, living off the “steam” that children with the “shining” produce when they are slowly tortured to death.

Haunted by the inhabitants of the Overlook Hotel where he spent one horrific childhood year, Dan has been drifting for decades, desperate to shed his father’s legacy of despair, alcoholism, and violence. Finally, he settles in a New Hampshire town, an AA community that sustains him, and a job at a nursing home where his remnant “shining” power provides the crucial final comfort to the dying. Aided by a prescient cat, he becomes “Doctor Sleep.”

Then Dan meets the evanescent Abra Stone, and it is her spectacular gift, the brightest shining ever seen, that reignites Dan’s own demons and summons him to a battle for Abra’s soul and survival. This is an epic war between good and evil, a gory, glorious story that will thrill the millions of hyper-devoted fans of The Shining and wildly satisfy anyone new to the territory of this icon in the King canon.

 

Goodreads // My Review

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Read this? What did you think?

Don’t forget to vote in the flash fiction battle!


30 Days of Horror #25: The Hollow Girl #HO17

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Join me for 30 Days of Horror in which we spotlight one horror book every day until we reach Halloween!

My choice for day 25 is a book I’ve only just come across, and mannnn it looks pretty creepy. Want!

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Available in hardback and ebook, 272 pages

Published October 10th 2017 by Delacorte Press

Five boys attacked her.
Now they must repay her with their blood and flesh.

Bethan is the apprentice to a green healer named Drina in a clan of Welsh Romanies. Her life is happy and ordered and modest, as required by Roma custom, except for one thing: Silas, the son of the chieftain, has been secretly harassing her.

One night, Silas and his friends brutally assault Bethan and a half-Roma friend, Martyn. As empty and hopeless as she feels from the attack, she asks Drina to bring Martyn back from death’s door. “There is always a price for this kind of magic,” Drina warns. The way to save him is gruesome. Bethan must collect grisly pieces to fuel the spell: an ear, some hair, an eye, a nose, and fingers.

She gives the boys who assaulted her a chance to come forward and apologize. And when they don’t, she knows exactly where to collect her ingredients to save Martyn.

 

Goodreads // NOT My Review

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Already read it? What did you think?

Up Next on Horror October:

Flash Fiction Battle: The vote opens!

 

Horror October: This Week in Books 25.10.17 #TWIB #HO17

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Welcome to This Week in Books, where we share what we’ve been up to in bookland this week and look ahead to next. 

Throughout October, I’ll be doing the short version of this post where I will simply share what I’m reading now, then and next. Because quite frankly, there’s enough going on around here.

I’m afraid my answers are the same this week as I got no reading time at all this week. But I’m hoping for a quiet weekend so fingers crossed I can get the last Horror October book read and catch up on reviews and things!

Here’s what I’ve been reading this week…

Now: Alone ~ Cyn Balog

I’ve barely started this, so nothing to report yet.

When her mom inherits an old, crumbling mansion, Seda’s almost excited to spend the summer there. The grounds are beautiful and it’s fun to explore the sprawling house with its creepy rooms and secret passages. Except now her mom wants to renovate, rather than sell the estate—which means they’re not going back to the city…or Seda’s friends and school.

As the days grow shorter, Seda is filled with dread. They’re about to be cut off from the outside world, and she’s not sure she can handle the solitude or the darkness it brings out in her.

Then a group of teens get stranded near the mansion during a blizzard. Seda has no choice but to offer them shelter, even though she knows danger lurks in the dilapidated mansion—and in herself. And as the snow continues to fall, what Seda fears most is about to become her reality…

Then: I Am Behind You  ~ John Ajvide Lindqvist

I was pleasantly surprised by this one. It was so creepy and weird! My review will be up ASAP.

Next: ??? The Passion of Cleopatra ~ Anne Rice.

It’s the last of my Horror October ARCs. Whoop!

Ramses the Great, former pharaoh of Egypt, is reawakened by the elixir of life in Edwardian England. Now immortal with his bride-to-be, he is swept up in a fierce and deadly battle of wills and psyches against the once-great Queen Cleopatra.

Ramses has reawakened Cleopatra with the same perilous elixir whose unworldly force brings the dead back to life. But as these ancient rulers defy one another in their quest to understand the powers of the strange elixir, they are haunted by a mysterious presence even older and more powerful than they, a figure drawn forth from the mists of history who possesses spectacular magical potions and tonics eight millennia old.

This is a figure who ruled over an ancient kingdom stretching from the once-fertile earth of the Sahara to the far corners of the world, a queen with a supreme knowledge of the deepest origins of the elixir of life.

She may be the only one who can make known to Ramses and Cleopatra the key to their immortality—and the secrets of the miraculous, unknowable, endless expanse of the universe.

Up Next on Horror October:

Flash Fiction Battle: Entry #4 and how to vote!