A short, yet deliciously terrifying read can be found between the covers of Antitheus by G.A. Minton. A secluded inn, a group of religious leaders on a retreat and a well-timed blizzard set the stage for this thrilling horror story. When the aging innkeeper stumbles upon a badly mangled body that used to be one of his guests, the world he knew comes crashing down. Once the town sheriff comes to the inn to investigate our cast is complete. The horrors that await the soon-to-be stranded group evolve into a madness of biblical proportions. What could possibly be hunting them in the blizzard? Who murdered the minister and scrawled such a distasteful message in blood? These are the questions that will be answered in this compacted tale.
There is no shortage of gore and violence in this horror story. The graphic detail Minton puts into his storytelling is captivating while being slightly gruesome. It is not overdone, however, which can happen in tales like this. Not a drop of blood is out of place and the murders occur within a carefully crafted plan. This classic whodunit gets a twist while the characters try to flee for their lives. As each murder occurs it is clear that something is lurking in the blizzard and it very much wants to devour them. The infusion of religious content with traditional horror blends nicely. The religious aspects fit the story and they aren’t overdone or excessive.
The story begins strongly; captivating the reader and pulling them in. But there is the addition of a supernatural occurrence that doesn’t fit the story. The book would have been fine without it and while it serves a purpose, it seems like an afterthought. There is some concern with continuity: the characters refer to what is hunting them as ‘intelligent’, yet the trap they set is mundane. There is some clarification later on, but the tale is slightly marred by this. The ending feels rushed, which is a contrast to how meticulously the opening was laid out. G.A. Minton is a fantastic writer, I just wish that greatness was on display consistently throughout the book.
If you’re looking for a quick read and horror is your genre of choice, this is a tidy little book that will hold your interest. The majority of it has the makings of a terrific horror story; however it could have used some ironing out. There is magnificent potential and the reader will be able to tell that the G.A. Minton put thought and effort into the telling of Antitheus.
Pages: 198 | ASIN: B0744XJ11K
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Bitter Awakenings is a genre-crossing novel with elements of a fantasy, paranormal, and urban as well. Did you start writing with this in mind, or did this happen organically as you were writing?
I think starting out, I had a concept in mind. I wanted supernatural elements in full swing and within a small town setting. As I wrote, however, the characters started demanding more elements be added as their individual personalities, backgrounds, and even locations dictated the overall direction and feel of the book. In the end, it made sense to combine a few genres based on the characters and the locations used in the book. The world of magic, as I found out through writing this book, tends to blur the lines between what we know, what we expect, and what is possible.
The supporting characters in this novel, I felt, were intriguing and well developed. Who was your favorite character to write for?
I liked them all, but I absolutely loved writing for Dusty. The mix of blood that flows through her veins makes for interesting interactions with her fellow Keepers. There are times when she’s sweet, then sour, bossy, yet vulnerable. You can sense her wanting to take charge and lead, but there’s a disconnect with her emotionally that shows up in the work, some funny, some not so much. She’s the perfect blend of “I know what I’m doing” and “What the hell just happened?” with the slightest dusting of, “Told ya so.”
The most enjoyable interaction between characters came from the conversations and situations Gordy and Niles had throughout the book. The back and forth banter of two men in love makes for some comedic moments between the more perilous scenes throughout the book. You just can’t help but smile and giggle whenever they get on lobbing one liners and can’t help but think they sound like an old married couple.
The world you’ve created is very detailed and creative. What was your inspiration for the background of your story?
Growing up I was an avid fan of comics and cartoons. Most of my favorites centered around “team” mechanics, like the Avengers, X-Men, JLA, Bionic Six, Dungeons and Dragons and many others. I enjoyed how everyone worked together to combat evil, but at times ran the show from a single perspective.
I also loved the aspect of witchcraft, the supernatural, and the unseen world. I quickly became fascinated by the massive amounts of information available on the subjects while supplying myself a healthy dose of horror cinema and books to quench my thirst. I switched between books and movies through my teen years when I learned, all too well, that ginger haired and fair skinned people do not fare well in Florida’s, almost constant, stream of burning sunlight.
I grew up in the South and among the cow pastures, orange groves, and lazy summer days of sweet tea and mosquito bites, I listened and watched. Most of the things I remembered, the people, the talks, the places all became inspiration for parts of my book coupled with my love of the supernatural and superhero worlds I so fondly remembered from my youth.
Bitter Awakenings is book 1 in the Keeper Chronicles. Where does book 2 take readers?
Book 1 set the stage when it came to uncovering secrets, opening the door for more drama, and introducing the world of the Keepers, but Book 2 will basically throw the curious head first into the magical rabbit hole.
Readers will get a chance to check in on Leesa amid the Utah landscape and how she’s been handling life with Lee and Myrna. An uncovering of a “friend” involvement that builds on the revelations in Book 1 will put Truddie Mae and Niles in the line of fire way out in the swampland of Louisiana. A ghost from the Keepers’ past makes a return visit that could spell the end for them all while a new Keeper joins their ranks in the most unforeseen way.
Expect more drama, more supernatural mischief, and more revelations as the Keepers struggle to maintain the veil while dodging a conspiracy to finish them off. Can they uncover the secret agenda meant to end them before it finally does?
It had been a quiet three years for Truddie Mae Watts, an almost immortal woman sharing the body of an eleven-year-old girl alongside an injured demon. As a Keeper, those chosen by the fates and granted supernatural powers to protect the veil between our world and the astral planes, she has grown accustomed to the tranquility of her home magically hidden away within the swampy wilderness along the outskirts of Dade City, Florida. That is until the veil calls out for her assistance urging her back into action and into the path of a sinister new enemy.
Something has breached the veil into our world. An entity that marks her and those she loves, for death. Driven by a ravenous appetite for energy, a craving for the occult, and a desire to end all of Keeper kind, it will stop at nothing until this world, her reality, is erased.
Now, forced to work alongside the tri-blooded Dusty, her adopted son and nature mage Niles, and Valda the snobby ice enchantress, they must race to stop this new evil that is hell-bent to destroy them and ultimately cause two worlds to collide that would unravel the universe.
Against all odds and against a ticking monstrosity of devouring evil, the Keepers must rally and protect not only their reality but also themselves before time runs out for them all.
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Dark, gritty, and altogether brutal, Steel, Blood and Fire is an archetypal dark fantasy novel. In the first chapter, one of the main character’s hands and feet are amputated, and the story continues in similar fashion from there onward. The setting is fantasy grounded in muddy reality, although there is a vein of consequential magic that adds a little sorcery to this otherwise swords-based world. If you’re familiar with Game of Thrones then you’re familiar with Allen Betchelder’s style; multiple character perspectives, inter-weaved story lines, and a healthy dose of murder. It’s a fantastic modern-style medieval fantasy, and a definite read for any fan of the genre.
When I began Steel, Blood and Fire, my first thought was, “Wow, this is a lot like Game of Thrones.” Then I began to think, “Or is it more of a Witcher book?” As I continued through the novel, I began to decide it was a blend of both. By the end, I thought that perhaps it was its own thing.
The book isn’t afraid to touch on the brutal. In fact, it seems to revel in it. Blood flows freely; rape is the buzzword of the day. It’s a mature novel for sure although it doesn’t quite cross the line, but regularly toes it. A lesser author would have toppled their novel over into prurient pulp.
The writing is well-executed, with the author’s own voice clearly shining through. There is one trap that Allen Betchelder tends to fall into, and that’s the ‘fear of said’. Every other sentence seems to find a new synonym – characters question, murmur, mutter, bellow, but words are never just ‘said’. It’s awkward to read, and tends to draw you out of conversations that should flow naturally.
In any perspective-hopping plot, characters are one of the most important factors. Fortunately, Steel, Blood and Fire features a strong and memorable, if slightly generic, cast. They come off as slightly one-dimensional, particularly towards the start of the novel, and the inclusion of a comedy group of village bumpkins – who of course meet with terrible fates – struck me as being an attempt at generating some frisson with the grim background. Other than those minor niggles, the diversity and depth of the cast begins to truly shine through around the midway point; from here onward they become much more than the sum of their parts.
Despite my above criticisms, I really did enjoy the story, and it quickly became engaging only a few pages in. If you’re a fan of the genre, particularly Game of Thrones-esque fantasy, you’ll certainly enjoy Betchelder’s offering.
Pages: 548 | ASIN: B00AW53RMQ
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When live-action-role-playing adventure goes horribly wrong it’s up to our battered group to save the day! Dale, his girlfriend Jane, sister Katie and friend Gavin are off on a LARPing adventure. Dale isn’t used to this style of play and is finding himself wishing it was bit more interesting. One must be careful what they wish for in The Barrow of the Damned by Jonathan J. Drake. After a few days enacting their scenes the group is presented with a special module by Mr. Stephens, their coordinator. He leads them to a barrow where they will go to combat with other friends in an orcs-versus-adventurers play. They’ve even got a game master to keep them in line. All seems to be great, until the group steps foot in the creepy crypt for the first time. It’s dark, foreign and crawling with things that go bump in the night. Will they survive? Where are they, exactly? Finally, who is the one pulling the strings behind this adventure? Be careful what you wish for.
The story begins with a shock as a young man meets his end inside the barrow. This poor fellow will play an important role in the tale to come so it’s a good idea to remember him. The story isn’t too long with short chapters that serve to change up the perspective now and then. We get a good glimpse at what is going on from the viewpoints of all involved. There is a lot of blood and gore in this story, so if that’s not for you it would be wise to steer clear. Those who like a fantasy-adventure tale with a bit of horror will find this tale is right up their alley. The story appears to take place in the United Kingdom, although definitive places are never mentioned. Based on the terminology the characters use and the way they speak it is assumed that is where our tale unfolds.
While the story is relatively entertaining with shadows of J.R.R. Tolkien and some black humour dabbled about, the overall execution could use some polishing. There are grammatical errors and strange capitalization on words that pop up here and there which detract from the overall story. There are some key elements that aren’t explained very well that can leave readers with more questions than answers after completing the journey. Questions like, why are the Fates, who have origins in Greek mythology, in some barrow in what appears to be rural England? How did they get there? How long have they been there? From what we read, it seems like they have been there for a while, trying to steal something from a spirit who was created by the gods. With a name like O’Fleistus it’s assumed this spirit would be of English origins, but it’s not really explained. We get a bit of an explanation, but it could have been fleshed out much more instead of being revealed in fleeting conversation.
A little bit of blood and horror can dress up any LARPing event. What began as fun and games quickly turns into mayhem in The Barrow of the Damned by Jonathan J. Drake. This book has some very good potential if it had been fleshed out a bit more. There is opportunity to expand and explain more of the black-humoured story found on these pages. Aside from these minor drawbacks, it’s a fun and quick read. This tale is quite gruesome for the faint of heart. If that’s your cup of tea, you can’t go wrong venturing into this Barrow of the Damned.
Pages: 263 | ASIN: B00B79MVZA
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A mysterious box that cannot be opened. A line of witches and the melding of two very distinct spiritual ideals. Throw in the military while all these groups try to fight demons and you’ve got 2pm, On a Black Summer’s Day by IP Spall. An interesting story that takes place in a quite town in America spanning at least a decade while the true main character doesn’t make an appearance until later on. We begin with a normal teacher who is trying to make a few extra dollars from his eclectic collection of ‘junk’. It is Samuel that finds the strange box at a market but it will be his son Chris that opens it all those years after his father’s death. What begins as a drunken gathering unleashes forces beyond human understanding. Shadow creatures pour into the world of man from beyond a void. Their appetite is insatiable and they thirst for human blood.
Spall has a knack for the surprise. What first seems like a simple book about growing up and coming to terms with grief unexpectedly morphs into a supernatural thriller where no one knows who will die next. The surprise demon summoning is just that: a surprise. While we got an idea that magic exists and is relatively accepted in this world, there was no foreshadowing for the battle to come. The surprise works in Spall’s favour as it is executed quickly before the reader or the cast has time to react. This allows the reader to be pulled in and feel as though they are part of the story themselves. A clever tactic for sure.
There are some drawbacks to this book, however. Stylistic and grammatical issues aside, the story appears to take place in the United States of America. This isn’t clarified until a chapter or so into the book but it comes as a surprise. While reading how the characters talk and the description of the town, it feels as though this book takes place in England, perhaps in a small village or hamlet. There are certain phrases and ways in which the characters talk that do not occur in everyday American speech. This is not relegated to a single family, but affects all in the story. This is a bit confusing for the reader. Had the story taken place in England or anywhere else in the United Kingdom it would have seemed natural.
This jarring bit of speech aside, the entire flow of the book seems as if it has been sped up. Time passes in a blink and characters whose point of view we were reading from on one page are dead on the next. It fragments otherwise good storytelling and detracts from the overall tale as a whole. A massive battle occurs and then the story is just over.
Those who delight in reading about magic, the macabre and the quintessential fight between light and dark are sure to enjoy IP Spall’s book 2pm, On a Black Summer’s Day.
Pages: 139 | ASIN: B01MXPZ9TW
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Human beings can be the most destructive, manipulative creatures on the planet. Ashleigh Reynolds captures this with fierce elegance in her novel Paroxysm Effect. What begins with a futuristic world where people are chipped in order to control their emotions devolves into an end-of-the-world scenario that will have you guessing what Reynolds possibly dreams about at night. Our protagonist, Gemi, finds herself in the center of the world’s destruction as people all over begin to succumb to madness as the chips they have lived with for untold amounts of time begin to go haywire. Mild mannered receptionists are ready to dice their coworkers to pieces. Strangers in the streets are murdering others before anyone can fully grasp what is going on. Gemi tumbles out into the middle of this madness only to be rescued by the handsome Jaxton and his military band of unchipped soldiers.
In order to read this book, you must be comfortable with blood: because there is a lot of it. Between the savage beatings in the streets there follows the betrayal of friendships and the viciousness of angry, threatened women. Gemi is a fish out of water: she’s being pulled along for the ride as the military group tries to save themselves from the regular humans whose chips have malfunctioned. We learn that military members are not chipped in an effort to keep their emotions clear and functioning: they need the ability to make snap decisions. Gemi is considered a normal human from a society where chipping is commonplace. With the world going to hell around them, it’s no wonder that other members of the group look upon her with disdain and treat her like a parasite; all while waiting for her to go berserk so they can put her down.
The severity of the attacks seems to increase along with the page numbers. Reynolds is not afraid to show the ugliness that permeates the human soul. While human beings tend to pride themselves as refined and cultured, Paroxysm Effect shows how twisted and despicable they truly are.
With a quick pace and excellent story-telling, Reynolds isn’t afraid to push boundaries and ideals in her novel. For her debut into the literary world she certainly didn’t waste any time getting to the nitty gritty. You can feel the time and effort Reynolds put into developing her world and her characters. She sees the story all the way through; even with the massive twist at the end. While most twists tend to negate everything that happened before them, Reynolds instead uses her twist to full advantage and propels the tale along.
If you’re in the mood to have your mind played with while pondering the potential benefits of a behavior modifying chip, give Paroxysm Effect a read first and then determine how comfortable you’d be leaving your emotions, the very things that compile our personalities and make us who we are, in someone else’s dastardly hands.
Pages: 296 | ISBN: 1523449233
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