The House at the Bottom of the Lake



TITLE: The House at the Bottom of the Lake
AUTHOR: Josh Malerman
SYNOPSIS: The story begins: young lovers, anxious to connect, agree to a first date, thinking outside of the box.
At seventeen years old, James and Amelia can feel the rest of their lives beginning. They have got this summer and this summer alone to experience the extraordinary.
But they didn't expect to find it in a house at the bottom of a lake.
The house is cold and dark, but it's also their own.
Caution be damned, until being carefree becomes dangerous. For the teens must decide: swim deeper into the house--all the while falling deeper in love?
Whatever they do, they will never be able to turn their backs on what they discovered together. And what they learned:
Just because a house is empty, doesn't mean nobody's home.
PUBLISHER: Del Ray Books
RATING: ⭐⭐⭐

The House at the Bottom of the Lake is a beautiful love story between James and Amelia. It starts with a first date, a canoe ride on the local lake. After finding a mysterious third lake hidden past a tunnel, the pair find a house, a solid complete house, at the bottom of the lake. WTH? No one had ever mentioned this before. 

So they explore this mystery. They have one rule: Don't ask why or how.

Ok, let's stop here for a second. There is a house. At the bottom of the lake. Complete with furnishings. And I can't ask how or why? I'm not okay with this. This seems like a setup.

So James and Amelia spend their days and often nights at the house under the lake. They become deeper invested in each other and their "home". Their love is gentle and sweet and then there is an awkward sex scene.

*Spoiler*
They have sex in the house at the bottom of the lake. They lose their virginity to each other at the bottom of the lake. Let me tell you where I have an issue with this; virgins do not just stick it in and go to town.  Girls need to be warmed into it or things get very painful. Frankly, men shouldn't write sex scenes where men orgasm and women are left with nothing. I mean he actually spent the time to describe the semen in the water, but Amelia can't get a little cunnilingus? 
*End Spoiler*

Eventually, the house starts acting weird and then fully disappears. Everything would be all wrapped up nicely except, Malerman didn't explain anything. We don't have a creature, or deity, or curse. There is no reason for this house to act this way, and that bothers me.  I need to know *something*. Why is there a pool in the basement? Was that just to serve as a metaphor to show them falling deeper for each other? 

With all these questions left unanswered, I had to give The House at the Bottom of the Lake 3 stars. 

Thank you to Del Rey Books and NetGalley for gifting me a free eARC in exchange for an honest review.

The Siren and the Specter


TITLE:
The Siren and the Specter
AUTHOR: Jonathan Janz
SYNOPSIS: When David Caine, a celebrated skeptic of the supernatural, is invited by an old friend to spend a month in “the most haunted house in Virginia,” he believes the case will be like any other. But the Alexander House is different. Built by a 1700s land baron to contain the madness and depravity of his eldest son, the house is plagued by shadows of the past and the lingering taint of bloodshed. David is haunted, as well. For twenty-two years ago, he turned away the woman he loved, and she took her life in sorrow. And David suspects she’s followed him to the Alexander House.
PUBLISHER: Flame Tree Press
RATING: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

The Siren and the Specter is a Gothic-esque ghost story intertwined with some local lore. David Caine, an author and profound skeptic of the supernatural is asked to stay in the Alexander House. What could go wrong in the "most haunted house in Virginia"?

Well, a lot actually.

Alexander House was built in the 1700s and carries a bloody and violent past. David on the other hand is dealing with past ghosts as he is reminded of the death of the woman he loved and the guilt haunts him. Together the Alexander House is full of dark secrets in all the corners.

What I liked
Character development. Jonathan Janz sure does have a knack for it! Even with characters like Honey, he made them genuine and believable, even if I did want to kick her ass the entire time. 

What I didn't like
This is my third Janz read and I have noticed he has a talent of taking multiple plotlines and merging them well for a large complex ending. However, this one felt crowded. I like the idea of David being haunted by the ghosts of his lost love, but her place in the story felt forced a bit. In my opinion, she could have been omitted and there would still be a solid story. 

Overall thoughts
This was a fun perspective of a ghost story, which frankly are overdone in my opinion. I couldn't put it down! I had to make sure the kids were ok and that Honey was held responsible for her actions.  As Janz continues to prove, his strength is his character development and I am excited to read even more of his work. 


Children of the Dark


TITLE:
Children of the Dark

AUTHOR: Jonathan Janz

SYNOPSIS: Will Burgess is used to hard knocks. Abandoned by his father, son of a drug-addicted mother, and charged with raising his six-year-old sister, Will has far more to worry about than most high school freshmen. To make matters worse, Mia Samuels, the girl of Will’s dreams, is dating his worst enemy, the most sadistic upperclassman at Shadeland High. Will’s troubles, however, are just beginning.

Because one of the nation’s most notorious criminals—the Moonlight Killer—has escaped from prison and is headed straight toward Will’s hometown. And something else is lurking in Savage Hollow, the forest surrounding Will’s rundown house. Something ancient and infinitely evil. When the worst storm of the decade descends on Shadeland, Will and his friends must confront unfathomable horrors. Everyone Will loves—his mother, his little sister, Mia, and his friends—will be threatened.

And very few of them will escape with their lives.

PUBLISHER: Sinister Grin Press

RATING: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Children of the Dark crotch kicked me directly in the feels. I am still heartbroken over losses I experienced. I have waited a week to write this in hopes I can articulate better than "It's so good!" 

Will. Will is the son every mom wants, the big brother everyone needs, but damn if he isn't a bit of a horrible friend. His mother struggles with addiction and his father is MIA. His crush is dating the worse person alive and I am upset his best friend isn't even mentioned in the synopsis!

Janz gave us two big plot lines with this one: escaped serial killer in the area and something is in the forest around Will's house. Without giving up spoilers, the two connect nicely. On top of dodging death, Will also has to deal with normal high school issues and be the parent to his little sister. 

I felt for everyone in this book. I even felt for Will's mom and I actually hate her a little. The ending hinted at maybe a continuation of the story and I have heard a rumor about part two, so I hope it is real because I want to know more!


Anoka: A Collection of Indigenous Horror


TITLE:
Anoka: A Collection of Indigenous Horror

AUTHOR: Shane Hawk.

SYNOPSIS: Welcome to Anoka, Minnesota, a small city just outside of the Twin Cities dubbed “The Halloween Capital of the World” since 1937. Here before you lie several tales involving bone collectors, pagan witches, werewolves, skeletal bison, and cloned children. It is up to you to decipher between fact and fiction as the author has woven historical facts into his narratives. With his debut horror collection, Cheyenne & Arapaho author Shane Hawk explores themes of family, grief, loneliness, and identity through the lens of indigenous life.

PUBLISHER:  Self Published

RATING: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐


Six tales by indigenous author, Shane Hawk, takes us to Anoka, a small midwest city known as The Halloween Capital of the World. I personally love the idea of several stories all happening in one location so this was a plus. Shane also brings forward some painful issues in the indigenous community specifically alcoholism and domestic violence. I found his approach to the topics respectful while also making his stance on the issues obvious. 

At the end of the collection is a list of story notes. I love when writers include these! These gave an interesting perspective into the stories. 

Soilborne

This story is a frightful way to address infant loss. 

Wounded

This story turned me into an emotional mess (Thanks Shane) and by addressing the painful topic of missing and murdered indigenous females this was one of my favorites of the collections.

Orange

Grief horror to punch you straight in the feels.

Imitate

Imi-TATE. This stroy includes another creepy kid and I am here for it. We get a boy clone under the bed that says the monster is the boy on the bed. WHATTT??? My favorite story of the collection.

Dead America

This story really fucked with me.  Seriously, spiders laying eggs in your mouth 😩

Transfigured

One of the best werewolves stories I have read in a long time! I also adore the queer rep here with our nonbinary wolf. 


I cried, was disgusted, and creeped out with this collection. In addition, the writing was well done! I felt for characters and feel more aware of indigenous issues. For these reasons, Anoka gets 5 stars!  I look forward to reading more from Shane Hawk. 



Thank you to Shane Hawk for gifting me a copy of Anoka in exchange for an honest review.

 

TITLE:  Dread Natiion

AUTHOR: Justina Ireland

SYNOPSIS:

PUBLISHER:

RATING: ⭐⭐⭐⭐


"There's nothing white folks hate more than realizing they accidently treated a negro like a person."

BLACK LIVES MATTER. PERIOD. FULL STOP.

Lincoln set the slaves free and then the dead raised up. Now blacks are sent to slaughter camps to train on killing the undead, but also learn the finery needed to be in the presence of rich folks.

BLACK LIVES MATTER.

This was an interesting take on a zombie story. The zombie field is a little over plowed right now so I was going in with high hopes of strong characters to really pull this off. I am actively seeking female and POC authors in my go-to genres of horror and fantasy and Justina Ireland has cemented her spot.

BLACK LIVES MATTER.

I only rated it 4 stars because I really wanted more zombie fighting/killing action, but after the ending, I am sure we get more in Deathless Divide.

Join us on the 1st for Jonathan Janzuary! It's been 6 months since we bought all those Janz books in Flame Tree Press's 4th of July sale and it's about time we read them. Use the hashtag #jonathanjanzuary and tag us all month long!

Members voted and the following four books were picked!

Exorcist Falls

Children of the Dark

The Nightmare Girl

The Siren and the Specter


We have also added to the fun by offering a giveaway to all our US members that complete a review either on Instagram, Goodreads, or Amazon and sends proof to the Queens of Horror Bookclub IG account. 

Further Reading: #jonathanjanzuary


So you have read the 4 books for #jonathanjanzuary with the Queens of Horror Book Club, what now?

Below is a list of coming-of-age horror recommended by the super rad Jonathan Janz






Other Janz titles to check out

Find out more about Jonathan Janz here!

*Amazing Children of the Dark graphic from June 2020 Nightworms The Boys of Summer Book Club Box*

January's Releases

January is here and so is winter! Living in NE Indiana, we are no stranger to snow. Luckily the last few winters have been mild compared to my first one here. The twins had 27 snow days to make up! It was insane, to say the least, but it made me appreciate curling up with a warm latte and a good book.

January 1 | Bloodletter: The Hemato Pages by C. E. LutzeStatic Age Books | Horror Last year, Brielyn led a normal life in Los Angeles as a tattoo artist. Now, thanks to her estranged father, she’s a vampire with a lust for blood.

January 1 | Taiping Tales of Terror by Julya Oui | Penguin Random House | Malaysian horror collection Thirteen boys retell tales of terror one night around the campfire. But as the session draws to a close, they realize they started out with only twelve.

January 1 | Scream to the Shadows by Tunku Halim | Penguin Random House | Malaysian horror collection | Unconfined to a single theme, this new collection of twenty short stories by Halim offers five distinct worlds - the paranormal mysteries from 'The occult words', with its dark settings reveal supernatural existences in the characteristic Halim style. 

January 5 | The Thirteenth Koyote by Kristopher Triana | Death's Head Press | Splatter Western | Gunfights, ghouls, and graverobbing. #8 in Death's Head Press Splatter Western series.

January 5 | Animal Munish K. Batra MD | Wordfire | Thriller | Serial killer targets people that harm animals. Who is the real animal?

January 5 | The Miracle Sin by Marcus HawkeBlood Rites Horror | Religious Horror | Have you ever wondered if there’s more to life? If we are destined for something great, part of a divine plan rather than just subjects of random chaos? Mason Cole has wondered these things. And he has the answer…No.

January 11 | SHIVER Edited by Nico Bell | Self Published | Horror anthology | It’s about to get chilly! This un-brrr-lievable anthology presents 30 spooky stories exploring the depths of madness and terror unique to the cold.

January 12  | The Gulp by Alan Baxter | Self Published | Horror collection | Five novellas. Five descents into darkness. Welcome to The Gulp, where nothing is as it seems.

January 19 | The Route fo Ice and Salt by Jose Luis Zarate | Innsmouth Free Press | Queer Mexican Horror | A reimagining of Dracula’s voyage to England, filled with Gothic imagery and queer desire.

January 19 | In the Garden of Spite by Camilla Bruce | Berkley | True Crime Horror | An audacious novel of feminine rage about one of the most prolific female serial killers in American history--and the men who drove her to it.

January 19 | In Darkness, Shadows Breathe by Catherine Cavendish | Flame Tree Press | Horror | Carol and Nessa are in the hands of an entity that knows no boundaries and crosses dimensions - bending and twisting time itself - and where danger waits in every shadow. The battle is on for their bodies and souls and the line between reality and nightmare is hard to define.

January 19 | A House a the Bottom of the Lake by Josh Malerman | Del Rey Books | Horror |At seventeen years old, James and Amelia can feel the rest of their lives beginning. They have got this summer and this summer alone to experience the extraordinary. But they didn't expect to find it in a house at the bottom of a lake.

January 26 | The Flashlighters by Daniel Barnett | Self Published | Post Apoc Horror series | John Hawthorne is awake at last. But so are other things . . . horrible, unthinkable things born from bad dreams and left to roost across the darkened Utah countryside.

January 28 | The Hobgoblin of Little Minds by Mark Matthews | Wicked Run Press | Horror Kori suffered through her dad's mental illness. She wanted him to get better, but instead, he disappeared. She trespasses into the abandoned psychiatric hospital, the last place he was treated, seeking traces of his memory. What she finds instead is something no longer human living deep in the underground tunnels.

January 31 | A Dowry of Blood by S. T. Gibson | Nyx Publishing | Gothic Horror | A lyrical and dreamy reimagining of Dracula’s brides, A DOWRY OF BLOOD is a story of desire, obsession, and emancipation.

*Mini-synopsis are taken from synopsis by publisher*

The Nightmare Girl

If you saw an adult abusing a child, would you report it?

I have and certainly will again if need be, ramifications be dammed, but after reading this, I am reminded why.


Joe Crawford, a top-shelf girl-dad, confronts a mother abusing her young son. Doing so sets a snowball effect of reactions with fatal consequences. Then the boy is placed with a foster family.

In comes an ancient fire cult (not Satanist yay) with some INSANE practices.


What I loved:

  • Michelle.

        "Michelle doesn't need a gun, she gets angry."

  • Joe. This guy was like the epitome of awesome guys with flaws. I especially loved his relationship with his daughter.


I read this in two sittings only because sleep was demanding. It was my first Janz experience and I am excited to read the rest!


Book Club read #1:

#jonathanjanzuary with @QueensofHorrorBookClub on @Instagram 

Top 20 of 2020





20.
Into the Forest and All the Way Through
Cynthia Pelayo






19.
When They Call You a Terrorist: a black lives matter memoir
Patrisse Khan-Cullors



 



18.
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
Rebecca Skloot









17.
Hood Feminism: Notes From the Women That a Movement Forgot
Mikki Kendall









16.
Becoming
Michelle Obama









15.
Fantasticland
Mike Bockoven









14.
Kingdom of the Wicked
Kerri Maniscalco









13.
The Complete Blackwater Saga
Michael McDowell









12. 
Deathless Divide
Justina Ireland









11.
Crossroads
Laurel Hightower









10.
Spinning Silver
Naomi Novik









9.
The Exorcist
William Peter Blatty









8.
The Name of the Wind
Patrick Rothfuss









7.
Ring Shout
P. Djéli Clark









6.
Gideon the Ninth
Tamsyn Muir









5.
The Nevernight Trilogy
Jay Kristoff









4.
Nightmareland Chronicles Books 1-3
Daniel Barnett









3.
KIN
Kealan Patrick Burke









2.
Dead Inside
Chandler Morrison









1.
Tender is the Flesh
Agustina Bazterrica











FIRST PUBLICATION OF 2021

I am so excited to announce that my short story, "The Wild Hunt", will be published in the forthcoming winter horror anthology, Bitter Chills, edited by the awesome Nick Harper!



Out February 13th, you will not be disappointed by this lineup! Just check out these awesome people I get to share a table of contents with!



Make sure to check out www.BloodRitesHorror.coma for news on all upcoming releases, including some charity anthologies. 




Kingdom of the Wicked


TITLE: Kingdom of the Wicked

AUTHOR: Kerri Maniscalco

SYNOPSIS: Two sisters.

One brutal murder.

A quest for vengeance that will unleash Hell itself…

And an intoxicating romance.


Emilia and her twin sister Vittoria are streghe – witches who live secretly among humans, avoiding notice and persecution. One night, Vittoria misses dinner service at the family’s renowned Sicilian restaurant. Emilia soon finds the body of her beloved twin…desecrated beyond belief. Devastated, Emilia sets out to find her sister’s killer and to seek vengeance at any cost even if it means using dark magic that’s been long forbidden.

Then Emilia meets Wrath, one of the Wicked-princes of Hell she has been warned against in tales since she was a child. Wrath claims to be on Emilia’s side, tasked by his master with solving the series of women’s murders on the island. But when it comes to the Wicked, nothing is as it seems…

PUBLISHER: Jimmy Patterson

PUB DATE: 27 Oct 2020

RATING: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐


I have so many feelings about this book! First, I am a sucker for Maniscalco’s Jack the Ripper series and I knew I was going into this in total fangirl mode. Luckily, I didn’t let me down!


Set in a beautiful Italian city, twin sisters who are streghe, witches, have to fight detection. When one of their love interests joins the church, things get a bit awkward. Emilia soon finds the body of her sister, Vittoria (beautiful damn name btw), the careless risk-taker of the pair. Soon Emilia uses forbidden spells to summon a demon, Wrath, and the sexual tension could be cut with a dagger from House Wrath.

Murders of other witches send the pair on a wild ride of mystery and magic. Kerri creates a Kingdom of the Wicked where seven princes of hell each have their own castles and The Morningstar has a curse upon him. Here the author takes religious theologies and gives us a cool take on the seven deadly sins. The princes aren’t the only ones that want to harm the witches, so as the duo try to stay ahead of the murderer, they also have to avoid being murdered. 

I was annoyed by the grandmother, but I assume she is a play on the stubborn Italian woman thing. She was definitely a well-formed person even if she was annoying. Emilia was a bit like Audrey Rose but whinier. I am excited to see where her new role takes her because that cliffhanger was painful! I cannot wait for the next book!

Thank you JIMMY Patterson for an advanced reading copy in exchange for an honest review.