2B by Mark Allan Gunnells- Book Review

2B
Mark Allan Gunnells
Valhalla Books; 1st Edition (February 13, 2021)
Trade Paperback/ eBook/ 155 pp

“No one tells you how terrifying love can be.”

Just in time for Valentine’s Day here we have ourselves a rather feisty one from Valhalla Books. This time in the shape of a steamy ex-lover’s quarrel turning into a violent murder/suicide in the main character’s bathroom in his apartment 2B. When Berkley Simmons wakes up in the hospital with his best friend, Sasha, he is more than ready to go. Hospitals are an absolutely terrible place to wake up. Surrounded by so much pain and suffering and death. Especially after barely surviving such a traumatic event. Luckily, the paramedics and the guy with a crush on him that lives across the hall in 2A arrived on scene quick enough to bring poor Berkley back from the dead after being clinically gone for approximately five minutes. They even told him that if it would have been just a couple more minutes, he too would have been a goner for good, and not just his ex-sociopathic-lover, Kevin, who had just attempted to drown him in the bathtub while blowing his brains out all over the bathroom walls. After arriving back home, we as the reader quickly realize that our main protagonist, Berkley is not alone. Books and CDs whose artists and authors have all committed suicide in the past are randomly falling off his shelves and littering his apartment floor, and all the faucets keep turning on full blast and spraying out water. The mysterious events are even happening while he is at work at the bookstore. Water coming out of nowhere and flooding the pages of recently stacked books, as well as a myriad of items falling from their appropriate shelving devices.

“Home is the place that you have to go to, even when you’d rather go anywhere else.”

Berkley knows it is him. How could it not be him? Who else would come back from the dead and torment him like that? He’s never witnessed a ghost or poltergeist before. But it must be him. It’s all too real and won’t stop giving him the absolute creeps. But why does nobody believe him? Everyone thinks it’s all just part of him surviving a traumatic encounter such as the one he’s just been through. What can he do to prove it to them? This is when things get even more exciting as Berkley hosts a terrible dinner party with terrible food, but he does it all for the evenings main event. After the crew of four washes their food down their throats with extra glasses of water and wine and slips little pieces of scraps under the table to feed their imaginary dogs, Berkley breaks out the Ouija Board! I absolutely loved this scene as I am a huge sucker for the occult and paranormal, and I love a good old fashioned haunting/possession scene in my horror art and media. I promise this one will not disappoint. Also! The supernatural fun and games do not stop there. His boss from the bookstore eventually hooks him up with a young, psychic medium as the tragedy in apartment 2B prevails, and we as the reader soon discover that our main character may have even more baggage and quite a few more ex-skeletons than we had originally thought in his closet (pun very much intended), as the book leaves us hanging onto our own devices and questioning what really happened with two different potential endings (the author does this in a good way neither of which will disappoint) that are somehow equally rewarding as far as death certificates are concerned. The author puts the idea of a potential overall metaphor in our head as we are faced with the lingering question of maybe our main character was actually the problem throughout their entire relationship the whole time, and that is what had sparked his ex-lover Kevin’s sudden psychological glitch in the reality matrix, which had then resulted in and pushed him to such extremes in erratic, unpredictable, and violent behavior, or perhaps maybe he was just a raging sociopath with a plethora of childhood abandonment issues acting out in the most impulsive, aggressive, and violent ways.

I said it years ago after being introduced to the work of the author here and reading one of his brilliant earlier works (The Summer of Winters), as well as a few really solid, well-written short story collections (Companions in Ruin, Flowers in a Dumpster) that Mark Allan Gunnells was one to watch out for and I stand by that statement from years ago still to this day. The author has an uncanny way of engaging his readers into the psych of his characters. No matter how loveable or hateable his characters are, the author continues to make sure that we as the reader are able to connect/understand what the main characters/characters in his stories are going through, experiencing, or have experienced. There are SO many authors working today (big and small press) and I don’t even know how many books I will actually physically quit reading time and time again and year after year that are unable to pull this concept off… BUT the gift here is true and admirable and absolutely for real. Gunnells is also able to show off his obvious love for writing and horror in new and fun and exciting ways time after time with each and every release. For example, in this book we have a chapter more than relevantly but also hella creatively titled ‘It Follows.’ We also encounter random bits of early horror movie adoration and nostalgia and even a few book shout-outs in the most-clever and often humorous ways. This is a fun one, folks. Do yourself a favor.

Check it out!

The House of a Hundred Whispers by Graham Masterton- Book Review

The House of a Hundred Whispers                                          
Graham Masterton
Head of Zeus; 1st Edition (October 1, 2020)
eBook/ Trade Paperback/ 400 pp

“On a windswept moor, an old house guards its secrets…”

Alright, folks. Just when we all thought we couldn’t handle yet another supernatural/haunted house story because the use of this trope has literally been beaten into the ground time and time again (pun very much intended here). Graham Masterton, master of his craft and Horror/Suspense/Supernatural Thriller author extraordinaire somehow manages to prove us as the reader wrong with another timeless tale of that same old classic haunted house story we all know and love, but in this strikingly fresh, modern, and unique way. Master of his flavor of horrorcraft yet again and ode to the supernatural horror stories of yesteryear, this time around the ghastly mysteries abound are in the shape of an old mansion (All Hallows Hall) with a rare priest’s hide hidden within its legendary walls, but that’s not it. There’s something far more sinister and demonic lurking within the house on the eerily misty Dartmoor (and if you figure it out be sure that you don’t speak its name because it will know and it will only make things much worse for everybody involved) and the legends may or may not have all the secrets uncovered just yet, with more than just a recently found hammer used in a family murder buried within its past here at All Hallows Hall. ‘The House of a Hundred Whispers’ is a powerful retelling of the classic haunted house story with the right amount of modern flair, engaging plot twists, and whimsical dark humor for horror fans of all shapes and sizes without any exceptions in quality written almost cinematically by a true master of his craft.

“Do you know what? This crucifix isn’t a crucifix at all. It’s a handle. It’s probably attached to a lever, and when you lift it up, it must activate some arrangement of strings and pulleys and weights under the floorboards, and the dado opens up.”

“Dartmoor, with its mists, bleak winter weather and overwhelming sense of isolation, is the perfect place to build a prison. It’s not a place many would choose to live—yet the Governor of Dartmoor Prison did just that. When Herbert Russell retired, he bought All Hallow’s Hall—a rambling Tudor mansion on the edge of the moor and lived there all his life. Now he’s dead, and his estranged family are set to inherit his estate. But when the dead man’s family come to stay, the atmosphere of the moors seems to drift into every room. Floorboards creak, secret passageways echo, and wind whistles in the house’s famous priest hole. And then, on the morning the family decide to leave All Hallow’s Hall once and for all, their young son Timmy goes missing.”

“From what I’ve read, an alchemist will have mixed various elements into the plaster so that after the plaster dried the room was kept suspended in time. If you entered the room and somebody recited a particular incantation, that incantation would trigger a metaphysical reaction from the walls, and you would become trapped in the moment that it was spoken to you, forever…”

The mixture of the metaphysical, paranormal investigation, parallel dimensions, and heavy religious background found within the setting, magic, and history of the old house and its mysteriously rare ‘priest’s hide’ made this a very fun atmosphere for the entire setting of the overall story. As the Russell family reunites at the old, creepy mansion members of the family (Timmy and Martin), as well as a paranormal investigator by the name of, Ada Grey, soon wind up missing as if they just vanished into the walls without a trace. But, if you listen very closely at night it’s almost as if you can hear them whispering out to you from within the walls. We as the reader eventually come to the realization that a large hidden room used to hide religious figures from the past was built in this very home. The plot unfolds as a group of paranormal investigators begins to uncover the origin and mysteries of the room, as the cops and their extensive search and rescue team continue looking for any evidence of their missing family members or belongings to no avail. One of the things I really liked about this book was the author’s use of that same old haunted house trope, but somehow managing to just tread enough water from that same old story that we all know and love, whilst creating something new and unique and timeless. It’s like we as the reader thought we knew what was going to happen, but the author was only toying with us, throwing twists and turns at almost every turn of the page as the story unfolded before our very eyes.

Portia turned round from the painting and said, “Just look at this picture. It’s like everything that’s been happening in this house. If you ask me, it’s all the Devil’s work.”

Dark, suspenseful, eerie, often thought-provoking and down right out of this world magical this book will keep you on the edge of your seat and lurking in the shadows at all times. Check it out!

Autumn Bleeds Into Winter by Jeff Strand- Book Review

Autumn Bleeds Into Winter                                                       
Jeff Strand
Amazon Digital Services (September 14, 2020)
eBook/ Trade Paperback/ 256 pp

When teenager Curtis Black’s best friend turns up missing after an argument at a what was supposed to be sleepover at his house, he accidentally stumbles upon and witnesses firsthand what appears to be the abduction of his best friend. He then soon comes to the harsh realization that the man who drove off with his friend lives nearby his neighborhood further down the street. Without any help from the police, Curtis quickly decides to take matters into his own hands when he steals approximately three-hundred and fifty dollars from his dad and buys an untraceable firearm from a sketchy felon to pursue his spurt of the moment plan and confront the kidnapper living in his neighborhood. This is when things take a much more violent and sadistic turn for the worse, and the danger abound comes back to haunt him tenfold. But, for only fourteen years old, young Curtis Black is made of nail-hearts and tougher than an entire wall of cinder blocks. The true art and magic of this book is the gut-wrenching tension, violence, mystery, and suspense that continues to unfold as we as the reader continue to turn the pages of what could be the author’s best work to date. Oh, and shout-out to Lynne Hansen’s always visually stunning cover art. This one is sure to deliver, folks.

Check it out!

Visceral: Collected Flesh by Christine Morgan and Patrick C. Harrison III- Book Review

Visceral: Collected Flesh                                                           
Christine Morgan and Patrick C. Harrison III
Death’s Head Press (July 22, 2020)
eBook/ Trade Paperback/ 128 pp

“Some tales are best told wet, dripping with blood and bowels, like a freshly slaughtered steer, its flesh and organs splayed across the butcher’s floor for all the world to see. Whether reading such stories or seeing such slaughters, the observer is witnessing two primal truths: fear can be measured in body parts and death is rarely heroic. These eight tales were run through the meat grinder and served-up raw. If you’re going in, bring plenty of napkins.”

Something exciting happened on July 22, 2020 of this year. Can you guess what it was? Of course, you can’t. But that’s right, folks. It was the release of a great little collection of Splatterpunk stories from two brilliant minds working out there in the Splatter Field of dreams. Somewhere out there colorfully splattered in the Splattersphere lurks a Visceral book of tales doused in bloody fragments of collected flesh. These two said brilliant minds are the crimson brain pieces of author and horror book reviewer extraordinaire, Christine Morgan (Spermjackers From Hell, Dawn of the Living Impaired, White Death), as well as author and publisher extraordinaire, Patrick C. Harrison III (Death’s Head Press, Five Tales That Will Land You in Hell). With an introduction by no stranger to the genre of Splatterpunk himself is Splatterpunk guru, Ryan Harding (Genital Grinder, Reincarnage, Header 3 co-authored with Splatterpunk’s notorious All-Time Master Daddy Edward Lee). So, let’s sit back and take a look at these brilliant stories found within the pages of this ever-so-brilliant collaborative beautifully and relevantly titled ‘Visceral: Collected Flesh’. Proceed with caution.

Going Green/ C.M. 

Future society reminiscent of Burgess’s ‘Clockwork Orange,’ Zea wants to erase her carbon footprint with the help of Earthstock, when we as the reader will see how much she is really willing to charge for the sake of the environment.

Placenta/ PC3

A group of medical professionals share personal war stories when one of them asks the group what the worst thing they’ve ever seen is. Sam Garfield takes that placenta cake to a whole new level here, when he recalls firsthand accounts of a patient who delivers a placenta demon whilst in bloody labor.

Vicarious/ C.M.

A first-person account of a donor addict who donates more than just blood after discovering that they’re able to see/feel the recipients’ personal journeys, so the donor is able to live a more fulfilling/adventurous life from the confines of their own home. A weekly visit to the library may be enough after all.

Full Moon Shindig/ PC3

A military man is back in town when his friends invite him over and throw a little local hometown party. Once at the party he discovers more than a Full moon going on that night when finding out that a young girl has been tied up to the pool table may not be what she may seem. Think Ketchum’s ‘The Girl Next Door’ meets Stephen King’s ‘Silver Bullet’ with the brutality and depravity knobs cranked to the max.

Little Fingers/ C.M.

Something much more sinister is going on behind the scenes here when a teacher creates an unforgettable Halloween game of reach your hand in the box and guess what it is inside there, folks? It feels like something lifeless and lifelike at the sametime, but you’ll never guess what it is…

Mildred’s Garden/ PC3

When a jealous neighbor tries to sabotage an award-winning garden nearby, things begin to get a little weird and messy before taking a turn for the worse, and by worse I mean DEATH.

Bad Taste/ C.M.

“Oh, hell to the fuck no…” Who needs therapy when you can heat up a metal torture device to near death temperatures, stick it in your mouth, and melt your effing face off?

Pigs/ PC3

In conclusion, we as the reader are pushed out the door with a tale of half human/pig hybrids in this pig pen reminiscent of Dr. Moreau’s ‘House of Pain.’

Often shocking, brutal, bloody, and always thought-provoking this collection was a great time and then some. The two author’s styles and skillset are very well accompanied by each other’s here, whilst making this collection an even more entertaining and enjoyable read overall. I would also like to note that this was a personal first for me reading anything by PC3, but it will definitely not be the last. With that being said, I would also like to point out that I am in by no means a stranger to the brilliant work of author Christine Morgan, who somehow manages to keep getting better and better with each and every release. These two give us as the reader an honest run for our money here in this bloody homerun of an unforgettable collaborative collection. For fans of Extreme Dark Fiction, Weird Fiction, Splatterpunk, Horror and Bizarro Fiction alike.

Do yourself a favor and check it out!