ANNOUNCEMENT!


I am beyond excited to announce that my very first short story "The Hag Stone" was accepted into Books of Horror Community Anthology Vol. 2!!!

I am positively thrilled and grateful.  I doubted myself and was given some great feedback and advice from those whose opinion I hella respect. AND IT HAPPENED!

Out October 16th!
Kindle pre-order available now; Paperback is soon to come!

Secret Faces: Thirteen Tales of Terror


Title:  Secret Faces: Thirteen Tales of Terror
Author: Kealan Patrick Burke
Synopsis: “If you are hiding from yourself, don’t expect anyone else to see you.”
Everyone has a secret. Everyone is someone else when the world isn't looking. Sometimes that person is good, sometimes that person is not. In Bram Stoker Award-winning author Kealan Patrick Burke's latest terrifying collection of short stories, you'll meet thirteen people who discover the horror of what happens when those secret faces are removed and the true darkness that dwells within us all is unleashed.
Publisher:  Self Published
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐


From the first line of the introduction, Kealan captured my heart.  I am a sucker for authors that communicate via "Dear Reader" stemming from my love of Jane Eyre and I am not too badass to admit it. Introducing us to many authors and short story collections, Kealan Patrick Burke stokes the fire under an otherwise snuffed out flame of my short fiction enjoyment. He doesn't just make me want to read it, when I have been so reluctant in the past, but he makes me want to love it. Thank you for that, Sir.

Home
A ghost story with a heartbreaking twist, my soul cracked a bit with this one. 

Stalled
More crime than horror, Roger shows us our true selves often show up when our lives depend on it. 

The End of Us
CW: suicide
Kealan took us down the deep, dark rabbit hole of depression in the wake of a breakup.  I wept.  Coincidentally, today marks the 6 year mark of a relationship that I ended in March. I connected with Doug in ways I wasn't aware I needed to.  The emotion was real, tangible.  I could reach out to the words and feel the anguish, the guilt, the dismemberment of every single memory made and I knew this was more than a story, this was personal. Later, I read the story notes. I wept, again.

The Red Light is Blinking
CW: bullying
Like Hunger Games but only the best troll can win.

Mother/Nature
CW: domestic violence
In an Eco-dystopian post-apocalyptic world, females are our only hope. It took her 12 years, but she finally was able to avoid the punches and stand her ground. As a DV survivor, the sentiments of the main character rung true and genuine. Just remember, you are not alone and help is out there. ♥️

I'm Not There
Am I a vampire? 
Am I a ghost? 
How annoying would it be to put in contacts if you couldn't see your reflection? 

I'm Not There begs the question, are you present in your own life? 

Memory Lane
Losing my sense of self has to be up there on "most terrified of" lists. Memory loss and brain fog happen to be a side effect of a life saving medication I have to take.  I conquer my difficulty by constantly using my brain.  I read 8+ hours a day, do complicated puzzles, write and edit stuff, and constantly try to learn new things.  If I was to wake up one day and suddenly didn't now who I was, I'm not sure I would want to stick around to make new memories. 

Terminal
I am not afraid to fly, or of terminals, but I am afraid of people touching me, so Kealan's deserted terminal sounds like Heaven. Until it wasn't. 

Forced Entry
The beginning of this story threw me.  I was so disconnected and lost that I was unsure if this was really written by Kealan.  And then the ending established it was definitely written by Kealan.

The Quiet
As a parent/caregiver to 7 children, I often fantasize about people losing their ability to speak.  If someone could invent a mute button for voices, that would be great.  However, on the other hand, I am a talker.  If you have ever had the joy of being in a conversation or DM with me, you know I will talk until I am told not to. (PS You can tell me to shh, I don't get offended) Communication has to have balance. There needs to be a give and take, a listen and speak. In this eerie tale, we explore the consequences of that imbalance. 

The One Night of the Year
A Halloween story! This story gave off a creepy Jeepers Creepers vibe. 

Pig
Written as a text/IM exchange, Kealan accurately describes the pigsty women trudge through on the regular. 

Hoarder
This story made me want to "Spring Clean" in September.  Everything must go! Marie Kondo who? But seriously, some of the best descriptive passages I have read are in these 13 pages. I could feel the weight of the trash entering my "bubble". I am going to go wash my hands.

Story Notes
I love these.  Every author should follow suit and include story notes.  These short paragraphs give the reader a more well-rounded experience of your work.  Once we understand your motives and can confirm (or deny) our thoughts the emotional connection solidifies. I especially connected with the bullying essay KPB included and the small glimpse into his personal life. 

In the Dream House: A Memoir


Title: In the Dream House: A Memoir
Author: Carmen Maria Machado
Synopsis: For years Carmen Maria Machado has struggled to articulate her experiences in an abusive same-sex relationship. In this extraordinarily candid and radically inventive memoir, Machado tackles a dark and difficult subject with wit, inventiveness and an inquiring spirit, as she uses a series of narrative tropes—including classic horror themes—to create an entirely unique piece of work which is destined to become an instant classic.
Publisher: Graywolf Press
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐


“If, one day, a milky portal had opened up in your bedroom and an older version of yourself had stepped out and told you what you know now, would you have listened?”


@n0vel.id3a posted about In The Dream House: a memoir by Carmen Maria Machado on Instagram a few days ago and I excitedly grabbed it.

It is a gorgeously written tale of a women's journey through life, exploring different tropes to describe her abusive same sex relationship (which is often ignored by society). As a DV survivor, her words evoke a plethora of emotions. Threatening to break up with you is abuse. Withholding sex as punishment is abuse. Not all abuse is bruises and blood.

For any victims and survivors who need support, The National Domestic Abuse Hotline is here for you, 24/7. Call 1-800-799-7233 or 1-800-787-3224 for TTY, or if you’re unable to speak safely, you can log onto thehotline.org or text LOVEIS to 22522.

Computer traffic can not be completely erased. If you are in fear of your safety, please use another method to reach the holtline. Stay safe. You are not alone.




Dead Inside


Title: Dead Inside
Author: Chandler Morrison
Synopsis: In this bleak and disturbingly erotic debut novel, iconoclast Chandler Morrison provides readers with a dark exploration of the nature of death, individuality, and generational identity. Along the way, lines will be crossed, taboos will be violated, and common decency will take an extended leave of absence. This is not for the faint of heart or weak of stomach. Or anyone who enjoyed Fifty Shades of Grey.
A young hospital security guard with a disturbingly unique taste in women. A maternity doctor with a horrifically unusual appetite. When the two of them meet, they embark on a journey of self-discovery as they shatter societal norms while engaging in destructive and abhorrent behavior. As they unwittingly help each other understand a world in which neither of them seems to belong, they begin to realize what it truly means to be alive...and that it might not always be a good thing.
Publisher: Death's Head Press
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
"I hope he likes sloppy seconds."

Arguably the best line of the whole book. Dead Inside is the book you hate to love. It has all the disgusting gore and violence with a touch of romance.  Extremely well written, I was not at all phased by the content.  Is that a testament to my mental well being? Maybe. Doubtful. Or maybe I am looking for something new to shock me while still being character driven and immersive. Would I recommend this book? Hell yeah! But read it at your own risk.

"Okay, before I go on, I should warn you that this part is what most people would consider to be gross or appalling.  If you were expecting fifty shades of softcore mommy porn, you're going to be disappointed."

I would definitely categorize this as horror smut.  Its dirty and nasty, and really terrifying. Terrifying in the sense that if these were real people, they would be the perfect couple.  I was completely invested in the characters and their connection.  Dead Inside did everything for me that I look for in a 5 star story. I felt true genuine emotions even when they were negative.  I laughed so many times and the humor was authentic and not forced.  The characters were clearly developed.  Sure they weren't conventional, but they were done with love and care. 

Also, I agree, Invisible Monsters was better.

Tender is the Flesh


Title: Tender is the Flesh
Author: Agustina Bazterrica
Synopsis: Working at the local processing plant, Marcos is in the business of slaughtering humans—though no one calls them that anymore.
His wife has left him, his father is sinking into dementia, and Marcos tries not to think too hard about how he makes a living. After all, it happened so quickly. First, it was reported that an infectious virus has made all animal meat poisonous to humans. Then governments initiated the “Transition.” Now, eating human meat—“special meat”—is legal. Marcos tries to stick to numbers, consignments, processing.
Then one day he’s given a gift: a live specimen of the finest quality. Though he’s aware that any form of personal contact is forbidden on pain of death, little by little he starts to treat her like a human being. And soon, he becomes tortured by what has been lost—and what might still be saved.
Publisher: Scribner
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

“He tried to hate all of humanity for being so fragile and ephemeral but he couldn't keep it up because hating everyone is the same as hating no one.”

A strange virus has made all meat unsafe for humans to eat. Hello vegan paradise! In response, the governments have initiated the Transition.

Marco, heir to the local processing plant, slaughters people for human consumption. Is that Vegan? Ponder on that. His wife has left him after a horrible loss and his father is deep in the chaos of dementia. Not much of his life is left to be desired.

Enters the most amazingly beautiful human specimen he has seen. Knowing the punishment for interaction with them is a torturous death, he seeks personal contact and finds a beauty he had forgotten he lost. How can he to back to the ways things are now? Can he save his humanity and himself?

Agustina Bazterrica writes, Sarah Moses translates, with such artistic prose that I often forgot that this is a legal cannibalism story.  It touches on themes of capitalism, abuse of power, and widespread fear. How dare we question the sanity of our government when they have saved us!

So I ask you, could you eat Special Meat? 

"Trató de odiar a toda la humanidad por ser tan frágil y efímera, pero no pudo seguir así porque odiar a todos es lo mismo que no odiar a nadie".

Un virus extraño ha hecho que toda la carne sea insegura para los humanos. ¡Hola paraíso vegano! En respuesta, los gobiernos han iniciado la Transición. 

Marco, heredero de la planta procesadora local, sacrifica personas para consumo humano. ¿Eso es vegano? Reflexiona sobre eso. Su esposa lo ha dejado después de una pérdida horrible y su padre está sumido en el caos de la demencia. No queda mucho de su vida que desear. 

Entra en el espécimen humano más asombrosamente hermoso que ha visto. Sabiendo que el castigo por interactuar con ellos es una muerte tortuosa, busca el contacto personal y encuentra una belleza que había olvidado que perdió. ¿Cómo puede volver a las cosas como son ahora? ¿Puede salvar su humanidad y a sí mismo? 

Agustina Bazterrica escribe, Sarah Moses traduce, con una prosa tan artística que a menudo olvidé que se trata de una historia de canibalismo legal. Toca temas del capitalismo, abuso de poder y miedo generalizado. ¡Cómo nos atrevemos a cuestionar la cordura de nuestro gobierno cuando nos han salvado! 

Entonces te pregunto, ¿podrías comer carne especial?

Kin



Title: Kin
Author: Kealan Patrick Burke
Synopsis: On a scorching hot summer day in Elkwood, Alabama, Claire Lambert staggers naked, wounded, and half-blind away from the scene of an atrocity. She is the sole survivor of a nightmare that claimed her friends, and even as she prays for rescue, the killers — a family of cannibalistic lunatics — are closing in.
A soldier suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder returns from Iraq to the news that his brother is among the murdered in Elkwood.
In snowbound Detroit, a waitress trapped in an abusive relationship gets an unexpected visit that will lead to bloodshed and send her back on the road to a past she has spent years trying to outrun.
And Claire, the only survivor of the Elkwood Massacre, haunted by her dead friends, dreams of vengeance... a dream which will be realized as grief and rage turn good people into cold-blooded murderers and force alliances among strangers.
It's time to return to Elkwood.
In the spirit of such iconic horror classics as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Deliverance, Kin begins at the end and studies the possible aftermath for the survivors of such traumas upon their return to the real world — the guilt, the grief, the thirst for revenge — and sets them on an unthinkable journey... back into the heart of darkness.
Publisher: Cemetery Dance Publications
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

“He had not yet been educated on the kind of monsters who preyed on Samaritans.”

I received this copy of Kin from my Summer book swap buddy. When I opened the box and found it at the bottom, happy tears threatened my eyes. I have wanted this book for quite a while. It was on my list for the swap, so I didn't want to purchase it with the chance that my partner would have. Its been taunting me for the last three months!

Broken up into three parts, Kin brings us to small town Alabama where four young adults from Ohio, seeking adventure walk along the wrong road.  Very reminiscent to Texas Chainsaw Massacre and House of 1000 Corpses, Claire is the only one to escape the cannibalistic insanity of the Merrill family. A local farmer and his boy, find her, then take her to the local doctor. Doing so sets off a chain of violent events.

In Part two, Claire copes with what has happened to her and her friends.  We see more of Pete, the farmer's son, and his calling to justice for her.  We are also introduced to the families of the victims, in particularly Finch, the older brother of Claire's boyfriend.  A plan for justice and vengeance forms. 

In Part three, the plan is set in motion.  Like most plans, it doesn't go perfectly. 

I enjoy KPB's style and use of language.  It is beautifully simple. He has a talent for character and setting development without being long winded. You really hate the villains and relate to the justice seekers.  I loved reading this book so much, I finished it in two sittings.

LBH, I love everything Kealan Patrick Burke does. He's perfect.

The First Days


Title: The First Days
Author: Rhiannon Frater
Synopsis: Katie is driving to work one beautiful day when a dead man jumps into her car and tries to eat her. That same morning, Jenni opens a bedroom door to find her husband devouring their toddler son.
Fate puts Jenni and Katie—total strangers—together in a pickup, fleeing the suddenly zombie-filled streets of the Texas city in which they live. Before the sun has set, they have become more than just friends and allies—they are bonded as tightly as any two people who have been to war together.
During their cross-Texas odyssey to find and rescue Jenni’s oldest son, Jenni discovers the joy of watching a zombie’s head explode when she shoots its brains out. Katie learns that she’s a terrific tactician—and a pretty good shot.
A chance encounter puts them on the road to an isolated, fortified town, besieged by zombies, where fewer than one hundred people cling to the shreds of civilization.
It looks like the end of the world. But Katie and Jenni and many others will do whatever they have to to stay alive. Run, fight, pick each other up when they stumble, fall in love…anything is possible at the end of the world.
Publisher: Tor Books
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

"There was so little left of him.  Lloyd always was a big eater..."

I picked up this gem back in 2011, when the local library had it displayed at the very front.  The first chapter is titled, Little Fingers.  I'll let you wonder what that means, but it is an opening chapter I will never forget.  

The first book in the As the World Dies series takes us on a wild ride through Texas as Katie and Jenni desperately fight to save Jenni's oldest son and find safety. Somewhere.  Anywhere.

Strong women protagonists ✅
LGBT+ representation ✅
Brutal kills ✅

The House on Abigail Lane


Title: The House on Abigail Lane
Author: Kealan Patrick Burke
Synopsis: From the outside, it looks like an ordinary American home, but since its construction in 1956, people have vanished as soon as they go upstairs, the only clues the things they leave behind: a wedding ring, a phone...an eye.
In its sixty-year history, a record number of strange events have been attributed to the house, from the neighbors waking up to find themselves standing in the yard outside, to the grieving man who vanished before a police officer's eyes. The animals gathering in the yard as if summoned. The people who speak in reverse. The lights and sounds. The music. The grass dying overnight...and the ten-foot clown on the second floor.

And as long as there are mysteries, people will be compelled to solve them.

Here, then, is the most comprehensive account of the Abigail House phenomenon, the result of sixty years of eyewitness accounts, news reports, scientific research, and parapsychological investigations, all in an attempt to decode the enduring mystery that is...
...THE HOUSE ON ABIGAIL LANE.
Publisher:  Self Published 
Rating: 🌻🌻🌻🌻🌻

"After all, it’s much easier to believe in Hell if you can already feel the flames."


With all the grace and tact of Erik Larson, Kealan Patrick Burke has created a novelization of non-fiction so accurately you will often wonder if the Abigail House isn't real. Located just south of Columbus Ohio, Number 56 Abigail Lane didn't wait to be finished to start its mysterious abductions. In June 1956, while working on the construction crew, Elmore Washington disappears starting the 60 year span of crazy events.


Probably the most satisfying thing about reading KPB is his character development. I feel like he sits in public areas and just observes, capturing all the nuances of each individual human. Subtle singularly, together making the story the most authentic possible.


At just 95 pages, Burke's forte is maximizing impact with the fewest amount of words. I appreciate this as I began my 39 KPB books before I turn 39 read-a-thon last weekend. With five finished and 30 days left, I have some reading to do.


ALL HAIL THE SUNFLOWER GOD

Unboxed


Title: Unboxed
Author: Briana Morgan
Synopsis:  Greg Zipper is a paranormal vlogger whose livelihood relies on his online popularity. When a fight between him and his girlfriend goes viral for all the wrong reasons, Greg purchases a dark web mystery box in hopes of restoring his audience's faith in him and hitting one million subscribers. But when Greg opens the box, he gets much more than he bargained for, including a Boxer who’s determined to stop him from taking his loved ones for granted. Now Greg must do all he can to stop the Boxer, or else he'll lose his livelihood - along with the woman he loves.
Publisher: Self pubished
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐


Greg Zipper and his girlfriend Alice live in a nice house with their pup, Rocco. She drives a new car and he has all the electronics a man could want. Finances aren't troubling because he makes plenty of money as a paranormal vlogger. Having a million subs is the goal and he will do anything to make it, to insure their life, to spoil his girl.


After a domestic fight is uploaded accidentally, subscribers start to abandon ship. Greg does the only thing he can think of to repair this hole. He gets on the dark web and orders an anonymous box of unknown. He will open the box live and everyone will see how edgy he is.


But when the box arrives he has to make a choice he never thought he would.


Written as a play, Unboxed brings fast paced action to readers. This will be beautiful done as a drama, but as solely reading material, it leaves a lot to dialogue. For me, that is difficult to get emotionally invested in. Characters are clear and balanced, but they require actors for the nuances necessary for true development. For this reason, I rated 3.5 stars rounded up. I feel that Briana has a great idea, its wonderfully written, but now I can only think of someone bringing this fully to life. I will definitely be reading Briana's other works.

 

Black Ambrosia


Title: Black Ambrosia
Author: Elizabeth Engstrom
Synopsis: Angelina is a killer. You'd never know it to look at her--until you look into her eyes.
Angelina doesn't kill out of hatred or fear--she kills out of love, bringing solace to her victims, guided by the seductive Voice that speaks only to her.
Angelina offers you eternal peace--at the cost of your soul!
Publisher: Valencourt (originally Tor)
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

“If it doesn’t matter what you do, then how do you choose what to do?”

First, thank you Valencourt for saving these stories from the abyss. Younger generations need access to these to fully appreciate the horror genre.

Like too many, I had never heard about Elizabeth Engstrom until Grady Hendrix's review of When Darkness Loves Us. I have yet to read it, but will be bumping it up my TBR after reading Black Ambrosia.

Full confession, I wanted to read this book based on its title. Ambrosia is the name of my best friend of nearly two decades and her name isn't that popular, so I was intrigued. Plus look at the bitchin cover!

In Black Ambrosia, Engstrom takes us back to the classic vampire tropes. We are given the story through the point of view of Angelina Watson, a vampire that roams around searching for a place to fit in with the humans. She doesn't have much of a back story, but seems to want to tame her bloodthirstiness. Along the ride she takes several lovers, using them for their blood and taken off when she is finished with them. Following close behind is an ex-lover that wants to destroy her.

Throughout the journey we pass through small-town America in the height of the 80s blue collar, Bruce Springsteen/John Mellencamp era. More than once did I feel like I was in an R rated version of their music videos. That isn't an insult at all, I love that simpler time!

Ultimately, ratings are subjective. Some will love Engstrom's romantic prose, while others will be board to tears. I rated Black Ambrosia 3.5 stars (rounded down) because I enjoyed the plot but found myself annoyed with Angelina detached emotions.


*Thank you Valencourt for a gifted audiobook of Black Ambrosia in exchange for an honest review.*


 

Sun Down Motel


Title: The Sun Down Motel
Author: Simone St. James
Synopsis:  The secrets lurking in a rundown roadside motel ensnare a young woman, just as they did her aunt thirty-five years before, in this new atmospheric suspense novel from the national bestselling and award-winning author of The Broken Girls.
Upstate NY, 1982. Every small town like Fell, New York, has a place like the Sun Down Motel. Some customers are from out of town, passing through on their way to someplace better. Some are locals, trying to hide their secrets. Viv Delaney works as the night clerk to pay for her move to New York City. But something isn't right at the Sun Down, and before long she's determined to uncover all of the secrets hidden…
Publisher:  Berkley
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

"This place is dark.” “Some of us like the dark. It’s what we know.”


After the death of her mother, Carly finds herself in Fell, NY, a small town where her aunt disappeared without a trace. For unknown reasons, Carly's mom refused to talk about Vivian, the sister that took off and never came home. This bothers Carly, so she sets out to find the truth.


Fell is one of those small towns stuck in the past. Apparently the technology age hasn't hit yet and it is quite annoying. Carly has no cell reception. She has to read through paper archives in the library since nothing is digital or online. And there is something super creepy about a town with a history of missing and dead girls and a police force seriously lacking in the equality of genders in their officers.


With the promise of a nearby theme park, the Sun Down Motel was built in the late 70s as a hopeful way to take advantage of the tourism. When that plan crashed and burned, the owners were stuck with a business investment they didn't really care about. Viv appears in 1982 and quickly gets a job at the night attendant. In her new position, she meets and befriends the only female officer and a local PI. With their help, Viv investigates the murders of three local women. Unfortunately, this is the most dangerous adventure she has ever embarked on.


Thirty-five years later, Carly arrives at the Sun Down Motel and quickly takes up the same job her aunt had previously. Quickly she finds the outdated motel eerie and possibly haunted. Will Carly be able to track her aunt's final days and find out what really happened?


This was a graphic murder mystery with a side of supernatural. Written from the duel timeline POVs of Viv in 1982 and her niece, Carly, in present time. The switch between the timelines was well done. I enjoyed the "who done it" crumb trail, although I did find it somewhat too predictable.


Depart, Depart


Title: Depart, Depart
Author: Sim Kern
Synopsis:  When an unprecedented hurricane devastates the city of Houston, Noah Mishner finds shelter in the Dallas Mavericks' basketball arena. Though he finds community among other queer refugees, Noah fears his trans and Jewish identities put him at risk with certain capital-T Texans. His fears take form when he starts seeing visions of his great-grandfather Abe, who fled Nazi Germany as a boy. As the climate crisis intensifies and conditions in the shelter deteriorate, Abe's ghost grows more powerful. Ultimately, Noah must decide whether he can trust his ancestor ⁠- and whether he's willing to sacrifice his identity and community in order to survive.
Depart, Depart! grapples with intersections of social justice and climate change, asking readers to consider how they'll react when the world changes in an instant. Who will we turn to? What will we take with us, and what will we have to leave behind? In our rapidly changing world, these are questions we grapple with. Focusing on finding and supporting community after disaster, Depart, Depart! is a story for these uncertain times.
Publisher:  Stelliform Press
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

"Depart, depart quickly!"

Yes! Finally I have found an LGBT+ story that isn't about romance. I have longed for an interesting story that has a wide range of characters on the queer spectrum without it being about their love interest.

A hurricane destroys Texas (which is happening right now 😬) and Noah is spared only because of a mysterious, ghost-like materialization of his great-grandfather as a child. Abe is a Jewish child that survived the holocaust by being hidden in a duffel bag and boarding a ship.

After being rescued, Noah finds himself a piece of normalcy in small group of queers in a popped up shelter in a sport's arena. This group finds comfort in each other, but others in the arena become more and more aggressive. Abe helps Noah navigate his courage and survive the insanity with his newly made family.

This novella is a great start to an awesome story. At times things didn't transition well or could have used more descriptive language, but the plot is solid and Noah's character development is building toward an amazing character.

The last quarter of the book was much more fast paced and I enjoyed it most. It's a very short amount of space to fill with so much knowledge and I could see it being structured as a full length novel. After that ending, I really hope this isn't it for Sim Kern!

3.5 stars rounded up