All Hallows by Christopher Golden

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

Date of Publication: January 24th, 2023

Genre: Horror, Holiday, Halloween, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Adult, Fantasy, Paranormal, Historical, Thriller, Mystery, Adult Fiction

Purchase Links: Kindle | Audible | B&N | AbeBooks | Alibris | Powells | IndieBound | Indigo | BetterWorldBooks

Goodreads Synopsis:

With the 80’s nostalgia of Stranger Things, this horror drama from NYT bestselling author Christopher Golden follows neighborhood families and a mysterious, lurking evil on one Halloween day.

It’s Halloween night, 1984, in Coventry, Massachusetts, and two families are unraveling. Up and down the street, horrifying secrets are being revealed, and all the while, mixed in with the trick-or-treaters of all ages, four children who do not belong are walking door to door, merging with the kids of Parmenter Road. Children in vintage costumes with faded, eerie makeup. They seem terrified, and beg the neighborhood kids to hide them away, to keep them safe from The Cunning Man. There’s a small clearing in the woods now that was never there before, and a blackthorn tree that doesn’t belong at all. These odd children claim that The Cunning Man is coming for them…and they want the local kids to protect them. But with families falling apart and the neighborhood splintered by bitterness, who will save the children of Parmenter Road?

New York Times bestselling, Bram Stoker Award-winning author Christopher Golden is best known for his supernatural thrillers set in deadly, distant locales…but in this suburban Halloween drama, Golden brings the horror home.

All Hallows. The one night when everything is a mask…


First Line:

In the woods behind Tony Barbosa’s house, the autumn leaves screened out so much daylight it seemed like dusk had already arrived.

All Hallows by Christopher Golden

This isn’t easy to admit, but I am a giant baby in reading or watching anything horror. Take, for instance, the new series on HBO Max, The Last of Us. I was sitting with my husband and oldest daughter, and whenever something scary would come on, I would cover my face with a blanket and tell them to tell me when it was over. That is how I felt reading All Hallows. I wanted to cover my face and wait until it was all over, but I couldn’t. This book scared the living out of me!!

I am going to be upfront with the trigger warnings in this book. I wasn’t expecting a couple of them, and they left a bad taste in my mouth when I realized what was happening. The triggers are child sexual abuse (not graphic, but a couple of scenes that describe a victim’s emotions), racism (overt and subtle), domestic violence, cheating, bigotry, and homophobia. If any of these triggers you, I recommend not reading this book.

The plotline for All Hallows was exciting but all over the place at first. Halloween has come to a Massachusetts town, Coventry. While kids are out trick or treating, the individual families are fracturing. Add to this, there are kids in the neighborhood who don’t belong. They are dressed in old-fashioned costumes and are begging people to let them in their houses. Why? They have escaped from a being called The Cunning Man and are running from it. But not all is what it seems, as the hours count to midnight and long-held secrets are uncovered. Who are these children? What do they want? Will The Cunning Man get them? Or is everything they told a lie? What horrors are in store for the families that took them in?

All Hallows has multiple main characters; writing a short blurb on each is impossible. So, I am not in this review. It would make this review go on forever; we all know people don’t like it.

The main characters in All Hallows were well-written and fleshed out. Each character brought a fresh perspective to what was happening in that neighborhood that night. I loved seeing the same events from different eyes.

As for the secondary characters, some of them felt a little flat. While they did provide some needed filler in the storylines, I couldn’t connect to some of them. And that made it impossible for me to care when certain things happened in the book (like Donny Sweeney’s semi-redemption arc).

All Hallows fit perfectly in the horror genre. The author did a great job of making me want to cover my eyes during parts of the book. This would have been a great book to release around Halloween because, well, the book is set on Halloween afternoon/night.

The storyline with The Cunning Man and the displaced kids was unique. The author did take me for a ride with that one. I was expecting one thing to happen, but a neat twist in the storyline had me shaking my head and saying, “No way.

The storyline with the neighborhood relationships fracturing was, again, well written. The author didn’t do a massive deep dive into the people he featured during that night, but it was deep enough to know that this was beyond what neighbors act like, especially in 1984, when neighborhoods were tight. I was seven in 1984, and I remember my neighbors being like second parents. If we (my brothers and I) were outside playing, someone was always out with us. Like in the book, the neighbors treated Halloween like a party for the adults, and we kids would go around the neighborhood trick or treating, barely supervised. You can’t do that these days, which is sad.

The end of All Hallows was interesting. While the author resolved things, only some were, if you understand. There were a few storylines that I had questions on that were left up in the air. Also, there were no happy endings. People died and were hurt; the end was maybe three days later. Everyone involved was still processing what had happened. There might be a book two because of the last couple of scenes. I would love to see Vanessa, Chloe, and possibly Julia get revenge!!

I recommend All Hallows to anyone over 21. There is language, violence, and no sex (some light kissing). Also, see my trigger warnings.

I want to thank St. Martin’s Press, NetGalley, and Christopher Golden for allowing me to read and review All Hallows. All opinions stated in this review are mine.


If you enjoyed reading All Hallows, then you will enjoy reading these books:

Son of the Poison Rose (Kagen the Damned: Book 2) by Jonathan Maberry

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press, St. Martin’s Griffin

Date of publication: January 10th, 2023

Series: Kagen the Damned

Kagen the Damned—Book 1 (review here)

Son of the Poison Rose—Book 2

Genre: Fantasy, Fiction, Horror, Dark Fantasy

Purchase Links: Kindle | Audible | B&N | AbeBooks | Alibris | Powells | IndieBound | Indigo | BetterWorldBooks

Goodreads Synopsis:

Son of the Poison Rose marks the second installment of New York Times bestselling author Jonathan Maberry’s epic, swashbuckling Kagen the Damned series.

The Silver Empire is in ruins. War is in the wind. Kagen and his allies are on the run from the Witch-king. Wild magic is running rampant everywhere. Spies and secret cabals plot from the shadows of golden thrones.

Kagen Vale is the most wanted man in the world, with a death sentence on his head and a reward for him—dead or alive—that would tempt a saint.

The Witch-king has new allies who bring a terrible weapon—a cursed disease that drives people into a murderous rage. If the disease is allowed to spread, the whole of the West will tear itself apart.

In order to build an army of resistance fighters and unearth magical weapons of his own, Kagen and his friends have to survive attacks and storms at sea, brave the haunted wastelands of the snowy north, fight their way across the deadly Cathedral Mountains, and rediscover a lost city filled with cannibal warriors, old ghosts, and monsters from other worlds. Along with his reckless adventurer brothers, Kagen races against time to save more than the old empire… if he fails the world will be drenched in a tsunami of bloodshed and horror.

Son of the Poison Rose weaves politics and espionage, sorcery and swordplay, treachery and heroism as the damned outcast Kagen fights against the forces of ultimate darkness.


First Line:

“Repel boarders!”

The cry rang through the ship, tearing Kagen from a dream of his family dining all together, the air filled with conversation and laughter and the smell of the Harvest feast.

Son of the Poison Rose by Jonathan Maberry

I love a complicated fantasy book that takes you down a road you didn’t think it would go. That was what I liked about Kagen the Damned and what I hoped that Son of the Poison Rose would do. This book not only delivered on that expectation but also exceeded what I expected.

Son of the Poison Rose takes place in a complicated but similar world to ours. It was a medium-paced book for about 85%, but it picked up steam towards the end. With how this book ended, any other pacing would have made it impossible to read and retain the information (fast) or made it so dull that people would DNF it after the first few chapters (slow).

Son of the Poison Rose starts shortly after the events in Kagen the Damned. Kagen is determined to discover what happened to his brother, Herepath, to make him turn into the Witch-King. He is not alone in his journey and is aided by his best friends, Tuke and Filia. Their journey takes them from the frozen north to the jungle to uncover secrets left undiscovered for millennia. This book also follows Ryssa as she tries to come to terms with the sacrifice of her lover, Miri, to the god Cthulhu; Mother Frey, as she sets in place a plan to take back the empire; the Witch-King and his cronies dealing with countries that oppose him, and the last two Seedlings, Desalyn and Alleyn, as they try to keep their identities in place and not become Garvan and Foscor, the Witch-King’s children. Enemies are made, countries are destroyed, and alliances are forged as people come together to battle the Witch-King forces. When the dust settles, who will be on top? Will Kagen find out what happened to his brother? Will Ryssa accept Miri’s death? Will Mother Frey get results from everything she’s been doing? Will the Witch-King triumph over his enemies? Will Desalyn/Foscor and Alleyn/Garvan keep their identities?

Son of the Poison Rose is the second book in the Kagen the Damned series. This book cannot be read as a stand-alone book. It will help if you read the first book to understand what is happening in this one.

The characters (primary and secondary) in Son of the Poison Rose were all wonderfully written. The author didn’t write these characters to be loved. These characters got under your skin and sat while you tried to figure out their next move. They were complex and had issues brought to life in the book. The author also didn’t hesitate to kill or maim primary and secondary characters.

  • Kagen—I wasn’t sure what I would get with him when I started reading Son of the Poison Rose. Finding out who the Witch-King was had badly shaken him at the end of Kagen the Damned. I mean, he had found out that his brother executed 2 of his siblings, their parents, and the entire royal line except for the twins. I would have been in shock too. But he didn’t dwell on it much. Instead, he decided to do something about it. He went north to recruit people to his cause. He discovered that magic had reawakened the world in terrifying ways. And he went to a kingdom avoided by other countries to try and find out how to defeat the Witch-King.
  • Ryssa—She didn’t get much page time in the book. But, man, it was intense when the author squeezed her in. She was evolving into something more than herself, something that even the Witch-King feared. I cannot wait to see what she will do in Book 3.
  • Mother Frey—Again, the author gave not much page time to her in the book. And, as with Ryssa, it was explosive when she was in the book. She reminded me of Varys in GoT (with her hands in everything). She manipulated events and people. Plus, she was a tough old bird, and I loved her!! Again, I can’t wait to see what she’ll bring in Book 3.
  • The Witch-King—He was vicious. His bringing in of the monks and turning people of various villages into undead, and allowing his enemies to find and be killed by them highlighted that to me. But I also got the feeling that he was losing power. There were scenes where he talked about killing Kagen, but after everyone left, he cried. That felt like his “real” personality was breaking through. I am curious to see what he will do after what happened in his tower. And I got some insight into why he targeted the Silver Empire.
  • Desalyn/Foscor and Alleyn/Garvan—All I have to say is those poor children. They witnessed so much (like their eldest sister’s rape and murder), and they were forced to do things no children should do. Like, beat each other with a rod when they touched. I did like how Lady Kestrel helped him in the end (she realized what was being done to them was awful). Again, I can’t wait to see where their characters will go in Book 3.

Before I get interrupted or forget, this is a long book. It has 704 pages. So you must read it in more than one sitting. It took me several days to read Son of the Poison Rose.

Son of the Poison Rose fits perfectly into the fantasy and horror genre. If I did have to get technical, this could be shelved as a dark fantasy. But since I’m not getting technical, fantasy, it will be.

I will only take the time to outline some of the main storylines in the book. It would make this book tediously long. I will briefly summarize what I thought of all the storylines. They were insanely good, and I couldn’t get enough of them. Even the little snippets of what was happening in the world once the magic was released were unique. My only complaint was that I thought the author drew the undead/pyramid scenes out toward the end of Kagen’s storyline. But it served its purpose, and I can’t wait to see what will happen in this world now!!

There are some major trigger warnings in Son of the Poison Rose. There are explicit scenes of child abuse, graphic violence, gore, self-mutilation, and sexual situations. If any of these triggers you, I recommend not reading this book.

The end of Son of the Poison Rose was a cliffhanger. Usually, I’m not too fond of cliffhangers. They annoy me, but they do their job. I am invested in these characters, and I need to read book 3 to see if there will be any resolution.

I recommend Son of the Poison Rose to anyone over 21. There is explicit violence, language, and sexual situations. Also, see my trigger warnings.


If you enjoyed reading Son of the Poison Rose, you will enjoy reading these books:

The Nightmare Man by J.H. Markert

Publisher: Crooked Lane Books

Date of publication: January 10th, 2023

Genre: Horror, Fiction, Adult, Thriller, Mystery, Suspense, Mystery Thriller, Crime, Writing, Books about Writing, Holiday, Halloween

Purchase Links: Kindle | Audible | B&N | AbeBooks | Alibris | Powells | IndieBound | Indigo | BetterWorldBooks

Goodreads Synopsis:

T. Kingfisher meets Cassandra Khaw in a chilling horror novel that illustrates the fine line between humanity and monstrosity.

Blackwood mansion looms, surrounded by nightmare pines, atop the hill over the small town of New Haven. Ben Bookman, bestselling novelist and heir to the Blackwood estate, spent a weekend at the ancestral home to finish writing his latest horror novel, The Scarecrow. Now, on the eve of the book’s release, the terrible story within begins to unfold in real life.

Detective Mills arrives at the scene of a gruesome murder: a family butchered and bundled inside cocoons stitched from corn husks, and hung from the rafters of a barn, eerily mirroring the opening of Bookman’s latest novel. When another family is killed in a similar manner, Mills, along with his daughter, rookie detective Samantha Blue, is determined to find the link to the book—and the killer—before the story reaches its chilling climax.

As the series of “Scarecrow crimes” continues to mirror the book, Ben quickly becomes the prime suspect. He can’t remember much from the night he finished writing the novel, but he knows he wrote it in The Atrium, his grandfather’s forbidden room full of numbered books. Thousands of books. Books without words.

As Ben digs deep into Blackwood’s history he learns he may have triggered a release of something trapped long ago—and it won’t stop with the horrors buried within the pages of his book.


First Line:

Detective Winchester Mills smelled the Petersons’ barn before he saw it.

The Nightmare Man by J.H. Markert

Horror is one of my favorite genres to read. I love getting scared just from reading a book. Of course, that does backfire on me when I read these books alone and before bed. But that is something I have learned to deal with over the years. So, when I got the invite to review The Nightmare Man, I jumped on it. I am glad that I did because this book was creepy and scary at the same time.

The Nightmare Man had an exciting plotline. Ben Bookman (don’t you love his name!!) is signing books at his local Barnes and Noble when a local farmer approaches him, accuses him of stealing his nightmare, and commits suicide. Meanwhile, Detective Winchester Mills and his estranged daughter, Detective Samantha Blue, are investigating a series of murders identical to the last book Ben has written. This investigation sets into motion a series of events that cause Ben to question his sanity. It also strains an already rocky relationship between Detective Mills and his daughter to the breaking point. But, it also reveals a common source. All murderers had been treated at the Asylum that Ben’s grandfather founded. And there are ties to the disappearance of Ben’s younger brother, Devon, years earlier. How is everything tied together? Why has to crime rate gone up so much in recent years? And why can’t Ben remember the night his grandfather took him into the room with the tree? How does that tie into Devon’s disappearance? And what about the books? What is so special about them? Everything is answered in the jaw-dropping ending.

The Nightmare Man is a fast-paced book in the creepy town of Crooked Tree. I missed where this book should be set (if it was even mentioned). But, if I had to guess, I would assume it was one of the mid-western states.

I loved the characters in this book. Every single one of them, except for Ben’s daughter, was damaged in some way. Also, the main characters (Ben and Detective Mills) are unreliable narrators, with Ben being more unpredictable than the Detective. That added to the general air of confusion going on in the book. I LOVED it!!

  • Ben—I initially didn’t like him and believed he could have done the murders. His marriage was on the rocks, with him thinking that his wife (who was pregnant) was cheating on him, and to add a cherry on top, he was the prime suspect in the murders of a family in Crooked Tree. Years earlier, he was also a suspect in his brother’s disappearance, but Detective Mills couldn’t make anything stick. When he finished his last book, he was on a coke and booze binge and couldn’t remember what happened at Blackstone that weekend. By the end of the book, my view of him did 180. Things were revealed that made me do a double take.
  • Detective Mills—Again, this was another character that I initially didn’t like. He was gruff, a functioning alcoholic, and had a history of abuse toward his daughter. But, he was also pitiful. The love of his life died before him, his relationship with his daughter deteriorated after he hurt one of his grandsons, and he kept having nightmares. He was one hundred percent gunning for Ben for the murders in the barn, but he was also savvy enough to know that something wasn’t right. There was a neat twist in his plotline that didn’t make sense at first. But, at the end of the book, it did, and in a way, he did redeem himself.

The Nightmare Man fits perfectly into the horror genre. The author did a great job thinking up new spins on old fears turned nightmares. I will never look again at scarecrows or the Tooth Fairy the same way. His spin on those (and others) was enough to cause me not to sleep at night. I will never get the visual image of a woman pulling teeth out of a young kid’s mouth and laughing out of my head.

There were two significant storylines in The Nightmare Man. The one with Ben, his demons, his family, and what happened that weekend at Blackstone. The other one was the investigation of the murders, Detective Mills’s relationship with Blue, and the past cases in which he made arrests. Everything is tied together at the end. And after they are tied together, the author throws in a couple of twists that made me question everything I had read.

There are trigger warnings in The Nightmare Man. They are mental illness (and how it was portrayed in the book), drugs, alcohol, torture of children, torture of imprisoned people (in the Asylum), cutting, and implied grooming of a child.

The end of The Nightmare Man was utter chaos. There was so much revealed that it was almost too much to unpack. I had to reread the ending three times to understand what had happened. There were a couple of twists that took me by surprise. There was also a death that I wasn’t expecting. I liked the epilogue, and from the final lines of that, I got the vibe that there may be a sequel. You can’t end a book the way the author did, and there not be a sequel!!

I would recommend The Nightmare Man to anyone over 21. There is explicit violence, explicit language, and moderate sexual situations. See also my trigger warnings.


If you enjoyed reading The Nightmare Man, you will enjoy reading this books:

Little Eve by Catriona Ward

Publisher: Macmillan-Tor/Forge, Tor Nightfire

Date of publication: October 11th, 2022

Genre: Horror, Gothic, Historical, Historical Fiction, Mystery, Fiction, Religion, Cults, Adult, Thriller, Fantasy

Purchase Links: Kindle | Audible | B&N | AbeBooks | Alibris | Powells | IndieBound | Indigo | BetterWorldBooks

Goodreads Synopsis:

A heart-pounding tale of faith and family, with a devastating twist

“A great day is upon us. He is coming. The world will be washed away.”

On the wind-battered isle of Altnaharra, off the wildest coast of Scotland, a clan prepares to bring about the end of the world and its imminent rebirth.

The Adder is coming and one of their number will inherit its powers. They all want the honor, but young Eve is willing to do anything for the distinction.

A reckoning beyond Eve’s imagination begins when Chief Inspector Black arrives to investigate a brutal murder and their sacred ceremony goes terribly wrong.

And soon all the secrets of Altnaharra will be uncovered.


First Line:

My heart is a dark passage, lined with ranks of gleaming jars.

Little Eve by Catriona Ward

When I got the invite from Tor to read Little Eve, I had a fan girl moment. I started jumping up and down and yelling, “I got it!! I got it!!“. I rarely have that type of reaction to getting a book invite. But this was different. I had recently read (and reviewed) The House on Needless Street. So, it was a given that I would accept this book. I am glad that I did because this book was a great read.

Little Eve is the story of Evelyn (aka Eve). Eve grew up on an isolated island off the coast of Scotland. Living with her Uncle, his two consorts, and three other children, her life revolves around chores, exercise, school, and a ritual that her Uncle oversees – who is going to become the next Adder? Eve is determined to become the next Adder, even if that means isolating everyone from the village they used to frequent. But Eve has discovered something about her Uncle that changes how she views her life. What has she found, and how is it going to affect her? How is it going to affect her family? And who is Uncle, and why does he have such power over everyone?

There are trigger warnings in Little Eve. There are graphic examples of child abuse (children being starved, having their mouths tarred shut, being maimed, exercise as punishment, alluded sexual abuse, and medical/physical needs not being met). If that triggers you, I suggest not reading this book.

Little Eve started slow and gradually amped up the speed of the book. It was never lightning fast which worked with how the story was.

Little Eve takes place on an island called Altnaharra in Scotland and its neighboring village. I love books set in Scotland, and this book didn’t dampen my love of it.

I needed help telling the characters apart at the beginning of the book. The author labeled the chapters with the names and years in which the book took place. But still, I couldn’t keep them straight in my head.

  • Eve—I wasn’t sure about her when the book started. She was a wild child who marched to the beat of her own drummer, which was frowned upon in 1920s Scotland. But, as the book went on, I began to see how she acted was more of a survival technique than being different. By the time of the murders, she had thrown off Uncle’s brainwashing techniques and was desperate to help her family. There is so much more that I can say, but I will say this – read the beginning of the book with a very open mind. Not everything is how it seems, and it will become crystal clear as the book progresses.
  • Uncle—I went back and forth about having him as one of the main characters. I decided he would be one because of his overwhelming presence in the book. The more the author revealed about him, the less I liked him. Uncle wasn’t a nice man, and he wielded his power over the children in ways that made me sick. When Nora finally told all towards the end of the book, I wanted to throw up.
  • Nora—-She was another one I went back and forth about adding as a main character. And, like Uncle, I chose to do it since she was a colossal figure in the book in so many ways. I couldn’t understand why Nora was almost constantly pregnant during the book or kept losing the babies. It didn’t hit me until about halfway through what Uncle was doing and why Nora kept losing the babies. I felt so bad for her, and I understood her actions at the end of the book.
  • Dinah—She was a third of the triad of characters that I waffled on putting as the main character. She was Eve’s Jiminy Cricket in some ways. Everything Eve did for the entire book was mainly for Dinah. Dinah did love Eve, but she didn’t understand her.

A ton of secondary characters in Little Eve add extra depth to the book. The ones that stood out the most to me were Abel, Jaime, and Ruby.

Little Eve fits perfectly into the Gothic horror genre. Catriona Ward is becoming one of my favorite authors of this genre. She writes it so beautifully.

The storyline with Eve, Uncle, the other residents of the island, and everything that was happening on the island was well written. The author did a fantastic job of keeping me on edge with everything. I was horrified at the killings and how Dinah was maimed. I was also horrified at the glimpses of abuse everyone on that island went through. I wasn’t expecting that storyline to end the way it did because of how chaotically it was written. As I stated above, keep a very open mind about what is happening. Things will explain themselves at the end of the book.

The storyline with Eve and Chief Inspector Black was interesting. Chief Inspector Black had an idea of what was happening on the island and did everything to get Eve out of there. I loved that the author included that he was trying to use forensic science!! Of course, that storyline did get sad, but he was vindicated by the end of the book.

The end of Little Eve was terrific. There were a few massive twists that I didn’t see (or want to see coming). I left reading this book feeling like the author had put me through the wringer.

Three Things I Liked About Little Eve:

  1. The author. I am a massive fan of her books.
  2. It is set in Scotland.
  3. The storylines. They were creepy and kept me guessing.

Three Things I Disliked About Little Eve:

  1. Child abuse. The author didn’t lay it on thick, but it was stated as a matter of fact.
  2. Uncle. He gave me the heebie-jeebies.
  3. What happened to Chief Inspector Black. It was a travesty, and I was not happy about it.

I would recommend Little Eve to anyone over 21. There is mild language, graphic violence, and no sex. Also, see the trigger warnings at the beginning of the review.


If you enjoyed reading Little Eve, you will enjoy reading these books:

A Sliver of Darkness by C.J. Tudor

Publisher: Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine, Ballantine Books

Date of publication: November 8th, 2022

Genre: Horror, Short Stories, Fiction, Adult, Mystery, Thriller, Mystery Thriller, Short Story Collection, Fantasy, Suspense

Purchase Links: Amazon | Audible | B&N | Alibris | Powells | IndieBound

Goodreads Synopsis:

The debut short story collection from the acclaimed author of The Chalk Man, featuring ten bone-chilling and mind-bending tales

Timeslips. Doomsday scenarios. Killer butterflies. C. J. Tudor’s novels are widely acclaimed for their dark, twisty suspense plots, but with A Sliver of Darkness, she pulls us even further into her dizzying imagination.

In Final Course, the world has descended into darkness, but a group of old friends make time for one last dinner party. In Runaway Blues, thwarted love, revenge, and something very nasty stowed in a hat box converge. In Gloria, a strange girl at a service station endears herself to a cold-hearted killer, but can a leopard really change its spots? And in I’m Not Ted, a case of mistaken identity has unforeseen, fatal consequences.

Riveting and explosively original, A Sliver of Darkness is C. J. Tudor at her most wicked and uninhibited.


First Line:

She often dreamed of drowning.

End of the Liner, A Sliver of Darkness by C.J. Tudor

I like reading anthologies. Sometimes my brain isn’t able to process longer books (my attention span can be shot at times). But I wouldn’t say I like reviewing them. I write long reviews because I want to cover each story and give it the attention I think it deserves. I am not going to do that with this review. I am a little crunched for time (I am writing this on Halloween and I have a bunch of things to do/get ready for on top of my usual Monday morning routine). So, this review is going to be short.

A Sliver of Darkness had an exciting mix of short stories. The author did keep my attention because these stories were not cookie-cutter. Also, the author did something that I wasn’t expecting. She wrote a little forward to each story to explain why she wrote it. I loved it!!

I had two favorite stories out of the eleven that were published. They are End of the Liner, and I’m not Ted. My least favorite one was Gloria, only because I hadn’t read her featured book.

This short story collection would have been perfect for reading in October. Each story was creepy in its way.

I would recommend A Sliver of Darkness to anyone over 21. There is language and violence but no sex.


If you enjoyed A Sliver of Darkness, you will enjoy these books:

A Broken Clock Never Boils by C.J. Weiss

Publisher:

Date of publication: September 26th, 2022

Genre: Horror

Purchase Links: Amazon | B&N | Indigo | Kobo | Author Website

Goodreads Synopsis:

IS IT MADNESS OR THE SUPERNATURAL?

Psychiatrist Claire Rossi seeks cases nobody else can treat—cases like her mother’s, whose misdiagnosis of schizophrenia and subsequent death inspired Claire’s career. Initially infatuated with an influx of seemingly schizophrenic patients, interest turns to terror as their ailments infect her too. She sees and hears a man who grows more violent with every encounter. The analysis and training she’s relied on her whole career fail to explain his presence, leaving only one conclusion: that what haunts her isn’t in her head at all. But maybe that’s just what she wants to believe.

As her symptoms escalate, she’s left with two unsettling clues. Her mother speaks to her in twisted idioms, and a mysterious letter taunts her with a single line:

Enjoy your gifts.


First Line:

Depression and loneliness fed off one another, a snake eating its tail in an endless loop of misery.

A Broken Clock Never Boils by C.J. Weiss

I have mentioned this in other reviews, but I enjoy reading horror books around Halloween. There is nothing like reading a creepy book on a night when the wind is blowing, and you can hear the trees creaking and moaning. That is one of the reasons why I accepted the invitation from the author. I wanted to be scared, and guess what? I was. This book was very creepy to read and kept me wondering if I should beware of weird notes sent to me through the mail.

A Broken Clock Never Boils had a creepy and interesting storyline. Claire is a psychiatrist. She notices a weird coincidence when several new patients start having schizophrenic episodes that are the same. They all involve a tall, pale man who only they can see, and all of their episodes are getting progressively worse. Things take a turn for the worse when Claire starts having her episodes soon after receiving a letter that says, “Enjoy your gifts.”. Fearing for her sanity, Claire starts investigating her patients and herself, looking for something that links them all together. Will Claire figure everything out before someone dies? Or will she become another victim?

A Broken Clock Never Boils is a fast-paced book. It started off running and didn’t slow down until the end. There was some lag in the middle of the book, but the author got the book back on track.

This book took place entirely in Denver, Colorado. The author did get into some background of the city, but he kept it mainly to Claire’s house, Claire’s office, and another location. I wish there were more background, but I was content with what was given because of the storyline.

What I liked about A Broken Clock Never Boils:

  1. I enjoyed the horror element of the book. The author did a great job of keeping me wondering if Claire was going insane or if it was something else.
  2. I liked seeing that Claire had such strong relationships with her friends. Her friends were her backbone for the entire last half of the book.
  3. I liked that the occult was used during the last half of the book. It made for a more creepy and interesting read.

What I disliked about A Broken Clock Never Boils:

  1. Claire for 90% of the book. She rubbed me the wrong way. She was condescending, snarky, and wasn’t very nice to her neighbor (or her son).
  2. I wouldn’t say I liked Claire’s boss, either. He didn’t take her seriously about anything until the last half of the book. It was almost like he was looking to discredit her initially and then had a change of heart.
  3. The demonologist. I couldn’t stand him. Every time Claire talked to him, he was a jerk, and getting information out of him was like pulling teeth.

Claire was an interesting character for me to read. I did have trouble connecting to her in the beginning because, to be blunt, I didn’t like her. But my dislike aside, she was an interesting character to read. Even I began to wonder if it was all in her head. She also made a decent detective and followed the clues to the bad guy.

The villain was also an interesting character to read. I am not going to go much into his character, but I will say that he was a frightening person. His obsession with his mother was scary and disgusting at the same time. I also was in awe over what he could do and how he could do it.

Several notable secondary characters gave A Broken Clock Never Boils some added depth. They are Dr. Eric (Claire’s boss), Amy and Bradley (her next-door neighbors), Robert and Jessica (her best friends), and her patients (old and new).

A Broken Clock Never Boils is a combination of psychological horror and supernatural. There was a bit more psychological horror angle than the supernatural. Combined, they both made this book a good read.

Three reasons why you should read A Broken Clock Never Boils:

  1. It is an engaging read.
  2. The characters are well-written and well-fleshed out.
  3. It is the perfect book to read around Halloween.

Three reasons why you shouldn’t read A Broken Clock Never Boils:

  1. The book rambled in parts. I could have done without knowing every single thought in Claire’s head.
  2. It does get a little violent in parts of the book. Claire is beaten several times throughout the book.
  3. If you are triggered by anything mental health-wise. The bad guy is severely mentally ill, and the author doesn’t hold back with him at all.

The end of A Broken Clock Never Boils was good. The author was able to wrap everything up in a way that satisfied me as a reader. I wonder if the author will write another book in this universe because of how the book ended. I guess we’ll see.

I would recommend A Broken Clock Never Boils to anyone over 21. There is language; there is implied sexual contact, and there is moderate to severe violence.


If you enjoyed reading A Broken Clock Never Boils, then you will enjoy these books:

The Prisoner of Fear (Doyle and Braham: Book 1) by Chad Miller

Publisher: Hear Our Voice

Date of publication: October 1st, 2022

Genre: Horror

Series: Doyle and Braham

The Prisoner of Fear—Book 1

Purchase Links: Amazon | B&N | AbeBooks | Alibris | Powells | IndieBound | Indigo

Goodreads Synopsis:

It is 1889 in Philadelphia, and detective John Doyle is restless. Along with his miserable partner, Thomas Braham, Doyle pursues mysteries, strange sightings, and other obscurities tossed aside and disregarded by the police. For years, Doyle has taken on these cases in the hopes of discovering something supernatural – something that could upend and dispute his long-standing, debilitating fear that immortal souls do not exist.

Doyle’s search for the supernatural remains unsuccessful until he receives a strange letter from an old doctor friend regarding a young woman with a mysterious and rather disturbing illness. When the doctor goes missing in the same town that this young woman resides in, Doyle and Braham decide to take on the case and search for clues regarding their missing friend. In doing so, they discover that there is no longer any suffering young woman, but a dangerous abomination whose origin cannot be explained by science nor modern medicine.

Meanwhile, an unnamed victim has been kidnapped. Trapped in a cell with nothing but a journal to document their experiences, this mysterious Prisoner must undergo terrifying scientific experiments while trying not to lose all hope and sanity.

Inspired by the works of renowned horror and mystery writers like Stephen King, Edgar Allen Poe, and Arthur Conan Doyle, The Prisoner of Fear brilliantly weaves questions of mortality and the human propensity for evil into a truly intriguing, unique, and frightening narrative.


First Line:

April 20th-I have always had a fondness for my friendship with John Doyle, but after the events of today, my admiration deepened.

The Prisoner of Fear by Chad Miller

I enjoy a good horror book, and I love them around Halloween. Reading these books around the spookiest time of year makes them even creepier for me. And, to be honest, that is the main reason I accepted the invite from the publisher. I wanted a spooky book to read (not that I have plenty in my TBR….lol).

The Prisoner of Fear is the first book in the Doyle and Braham series. You can ignore the usual stuff I write about reading previous books because it is the first book.

The Prisoner of Fear tells a story about a young woman infected with a mysterious illness. Doyle and Braham get involved when the young woman’s mother writes to them and asks if they could come and investigate. What they encounter is beyond anything that they have ever seen or experienced. In a parallel storyline, an unknown person is kidnapped, thrown into a cell, experimented on, and forced to write a journal detailing their every thought. How are these two storylines connected, and why? What horror did Doyle and Braham experience at that house in Connecticut?

When I started reading The Prisoner of Fear, I wasn’t expecting the format it was written in. It was written in the form of journal entries, police reports, and news articles. At first, it did throw me off. I am not a huge fan of books written in this fashion. But, as the book went on, I grew used to and came to like how it was written. The author did something that I haven’t seen before in a book written in journal format. I liked that he created characters that had a depth to them.

The main storyline of The Prisoner of Fear revolves around Doyle, his partner Braham, and the events in Connecticut. The author drew me into the story by slowly leaking bits of information about Charles, Cordelia, Doyle, Braham, and (to a lesser extent) Braham’s niece, Scarlett. When I can get as involved with the characters as I did, it makes the book even more enjoyable to read.

The parallel storyline with the unknown stranger did confuse me at first. The author introduced this person (I have no clue if they are male or female) halfway through the book. I couldn’t understand why the author did that until almost the end of the book. That was when the author revealed something significant. Then everything made sense (why the author introduced this person). I wish the stranger’s identity were revealed and the redacted parts of the diary revealed names. The author deliberately did this, and it frustrated me. I am not the type of person to wait until the next book. As Veruca Salt famously says, “I want it now!!

The author very well wrote the horror angle. From the beginning, I had mild anxiety while reading the lead-up to Doyle and Braham’s trip to Connecticut. But, once they got to Connecticut, my anxiety grew. I knew something terrible was going to happen. I didn’t expect how it happened and the fallout from it. I was genuinely creeped out by Cordelia’s condition and her mother’s dedication to keeping her happy. What they found in the basement and the journal excerpts pulled out of the fire added to it. Also adding to my discomfort was how Charles’s sister was acting. It was weird and offsetting, to say the least, and made me wonder if what happened to Cordelia is happening to her.

The end of The Prisoner of Fear was interesting. I say interesting because while Doyle and Braham solved Cordelia’s case, there was still so much up in the air. I wanted to know what was happening to Jessica (Charles’s sister). There was also the matter of the person being held captive and what was done to them. The author did say that there was going to be a book 2, and I hope it answers those questions.

I would recommend The Prisoner of Fear to anyone over 21. There is mild language, no sex, and moderate to graphic violence in parts of the book.

Fleshed Out: A Body Horror Collection by Rob Ulitski

Publisher: Pastel Wasteland

Date of publication: October 14th, 2022

Genre: Horror

Purchase Links: Amazon

Goodreads Synopsis:

A hair-obsessed serial killer…

A flesh-eating motorway pileup…

A grotesque holiday illness…

Forget what you think you know about the human body. In Rob Ulitski’s debut short story collection, get ready for a thrilling, gut-churning ride through death, disease and destruction.

Boasting thirteen unique stories and a whole host of brutal bodily afflictions, ‘Fleshed Out’ explores the fragility of flesh and blood, and the gruesome ways our bodies can twist, contort and transform into our worst nightmares.


First Line:

Natalia was soaked through with blood, fresh tangles of hair dangling from her puckered lips.

Fleshed Out: A Body Horror Collection (story Hair) by Rob Ulitski

I know I have said this before, I am not a fan of reviewing anthologies/short story collections. When the author sent me the email for this short story collection, I did sit on it for a few days. Mainly because of what I said in the first sentence. But then I figured, “Hey, why not” and accepted the invite. I am glad that I did because this book was fantastic!! I never say this, but this author is going places!! Also, this would be a great October/Halloween read.

If I did a complete review of every story, this post would go on forever. So, I will do this review by breaking down each story and giving my take on them. I will briefly describe whether I liked the story and what I thought about it. Sound good? Awesome. So strap in for some truly unique and gross stories. And before I forget, the author included drawings of the story at the beginning. Again, another remarkable thing about this book.


Hair:

Hair is a story about a serial killer named Natalia. Natalia likes to go on dating apps, find victims (mainly women), kill them, and eat their hair. Natalia also wanted to be a mother. But Natalia has a secret, which is about to explode.

So, this story was very gross for me to read. I have never read a story about a serial killer who wants to be a mom and eats human hair. I was gagging during those scenes. The end surprised me because I thought it was going another way. So, if you have a strong stomach, this book is for you.


Carnage:

Carnage is a story about a man who is scorned. Morgan was enraged after finding out that his girlfriend had slept with his brother. Driving erratically over a bridge, Morgan commits a murder/suicide by driving off the bridge and onto another below road. Hitting a tanker and causing it to lose its bearings, it crashes into commuters while spraying everyone with orange liquid. What should have been instant death instead was because of something different. Morgan, Jessica (the girlfriend), and all the other accident victims are still alive and aware of their surroundings. For Morgan, this is great because Jessica will be with him forever. But is it?

Carnage reminded me of a cross between the old horror movie “The Blob” and a grotesque Romeo and Juliet. Again, this was a story whose ending took me by surprise. Morgan was unhinged for the entire story, but I did feel bad for him. It still didn’t excuse what he did.


Crystalline

Crystalline is the story of Helena. Helena is the full-time caregiver for her brain-damaged brother. She is barely making ends meet by working as a cam girl. Threatened with eviction, she comes up with a plan to make money to keep her in her apartment when something weird happens. A rock flies through her window into her kitchen, and the debris cuts her. Not thinking anything of it, Helena notices a large lump on her forehead. Thinking it was a pimple, she squeezed it and popped out a diamond that was large enough to pay off her debts. As more diamonds grow (and more ravaged her face), Helena realizes that the biggest is yet to come. She can send her brother to a hospital with this money for treatment. But at what cost? Will her friend, a webcam customer, come through to help her one final time?

This one didn’t scare me so much and gross me out, as it did make me sad. I lost my brother 14 years ago to a terminal disease, and I could relate to what Helena was going through. I also could understand why she immediately thought of her brother when the diamonds started happening. I wasn’t too surprised by the end, either.


Heal

Leah, Jamie, and Todd are urban explorers who were part of a website called Urbexjunkies. They were exploring Egglemore Hospital. This hospital suddenly shut down years before, and there is supposed to be a healing garden in the center. Finding a notebook written by a doctor who disappeared when the hospital shut down, the trio figured out a way in. Leah has the most to lose…she is terminally ill. But the hospital is hiding a secret, and that secret is hungry.

Again, I wasn’t as scared by this story as I was sad. Again, I understood the lengths that Leah was willing to go through to save her own life. I wasn’t surprised by what was revealed in the notebook entries and what the trio saw at the hospital. I was surprised by the twist it took, and I wish I could have seen that confrontation.


Doug

Dan is not having a good day. He finds out that his wife is cheating and throws her out. Somehow, he ends up at Shapton Woods. The woods are known as a local gay hookup spot, and why Dan is there, he doesn’t know. Following the directions from a 7-year-old message, Dan witnesses two men engaging in a sexual act. Going back the next day, Dan sees a hand sticking out of the ground, grabbing for a used condom. Curious, Dan returns the next day, and there is a face, two arms, and two hands in the ground. So begins Dan’s relationship with a foul-mouthed, sex-crazed being called Doug. Can Doug help Dan see the truth about himself? Or will Dan forever be denying his sexuality?

This was my favorite story. Dan was such a relatable character. And Doug, I laughed at his sexual innuendos, potty mouth, and way of looking at things. I will not say much more because I already said too much in the intro. But, hands down, my favorite story.


Circles

Imagine waking up in a bright white hospital room and being thrown into scenarios that cause your death. Imagine waking up after dying and you are fully alive and unhurt. Imagine waking up in a cell with no idea how you ended up there. This is Ben’s life. It all changes when he meets Robyn and discovers he is being experimented on. What are the experiments? What does Robyn want?

I got chills reading this story. I was rooting for Ben and Robyn until the end of the story. I wasn’t a big fan of how it ended. I wanted it to end well if you know what I mean.


Vending Machine

Marty Michaels is a terminally ill man. He has been treating his illness homeopathically, but nothing is working. His life consists of the walks he takes around town and the pain his illness costs. Everything changes when Marty finds a strange vending machine in a rundown mall. This vending machine only dispenses one jelly-like cube. Marty is hesitant to eat it, but when he does, he feels like he did before he was sick. The effects of the cube end, and Marty is forced between eating another cube and feeling like he is dying. What does Marty do?

This story made me a little sad but frightened me at the same time. I emphasized with Marty. He was so sick, and all of this bad stuff had happened to him on top of it. So, eating the jelly didn’t seem like a bad thing to do. He just wanted to stop hurting. I stopped emphasizing with him, though, once the machine started asking for weirder and weirder things. At one point in the story, I was internally urging him not to go back to the mall. So, I wasn’t surprised by what happened.


Dropoff

What would you do if a man dropped out of the sky, got pulverized before you, and was still alive? Would you help, or would you leave him there? That was our nameless main character’s dilemma when Brock was splattered on the pavement in front of him. Choosing to help Brock and deliver him to his wife was only the right thing to do…..right? What else could happen?

This was a story that made me queasy to read. The visualization still makes me gag, and what the hero did to scoop up Brock still makes me sick. Brock’s story, though, was interesting, and I loved that the hero was willing to take what was left of him to his wife. Speaking of her, she was awesome!!! I loved Brock’s wife. What I didn’t like was what happened to the hero. I wasn’t a fan of it.


Fused

Campbell had a crappy year. His dad walked out, leaving his mother and himself to fend for themselves. They had to move to a crappy neighborhood, where his mother would spend the days in bed in a deep depression. Campbell, on the other hand, is determined to help his mother. Going from business to business, handing out resumes, he arrives at a diner where he meets Spence, Kit, and Weasel. But something weird happens after meeting them. His hand fuses with his knife, and something horrible happens to one of his new friends. What happened? And why does everything seem to be changing in Campbell’s world?

This was a good story. The author had me thinking one thing and then switching it around at the end. I wasn’t prepared for what was revealed. Mainly because I felt it would be something 100% different than what it was.


Neoton

Elijah is on the verge of doing something amazing. He is building a virtual world where no one dies, hurts, or is depressed. This is the virtual world of Neoton which is accessed through a virtual processor in the side of his head. He spends 100% of his free time in Neoton. Tara is Elijah’s wife. She is done with him being online constantly. She is done and does something awful that strands Elijah in the virtual world. Can Elijah make it out, or will he stay in Neoton forever?

The author told this story from the viewpoints of Elijah and Tara. I could feel Tara’s frustration over Elijah being online constantly. I could also feel Elijah’s pride in building something that could help people online. I did understand why Tara did what she did. She didn’t expect it to end up the way it did.


Roe

Maggie is retired and wants to live her life in quiet. Going to Scotland and living off the land seems just the thing to do. Until she starts hearing godawful screeching, driving her crazy, Maggie traces the screeching to a beached salmon. Killing it, Maggie makes a meal out of it. That was the wrong thing to do because…..

This was probably my least favorite story. I understood why Maggie wanted quiet (don’t we all?), but instead of moving the fish, she kills it and eats it. So, I wasn’t surprised by the events afterward. It serves her right.


Smothered

Jared has a lot on his plate. He is freshly divorced from Kate and is forced into looking after his estranged mother, Maude, while she recovers from contracting worms while on vacation. He wants nothing to do with his mother but feels obligated because she’s his mother. But everything is not what it seems with Maude. There is something wrong with her, and that something wants Jared. Will it get her?

This was the 2nd of my least favorite stories. I wouldn’t say I liked Jared or Maude. Jared had issues, and most of those centered around Maude. Maude had her problems and was trying to make amends with Jared. There was incest feel to the story towards the end. I wasn’t a big fan of that.


Replacement

Clara suffers from a rare skin disease and uses a product called FleshKey. FleshKey is a custom mold made to suit the person using it. Clara has been using this product for years. Imagine her surprise when she opened her newest FleshKey and found a sentient being instead. She begins an investigation by contacting her boss, the editor of a gossip magazine. That leads her directly to the factory where FleshKey is made. What she finds out will shake everything she knows.

I enjoyed this story and felt so bad for the sentient beings in this story. After Clara got over her disgust, she felt terrible too. But she brought in too many people into her secret investigation, which comprises it. I wasn’t thrilled with this story’s end and got a little sick to my stomach reading it.

I would recommend Fleshed Out to anyone over 21. There is graphic violence, language, and sexual acts.

Owl Manor—The Final Stroke (Owl Manor: Book 3) by Zita Harrison

Publisher: Zealous Arts Publishing

Date of publication: August 10th, 2022

Genre: Gothic, Horror

Series: Owl Manor Trilogy

Owl Manor: The Dawning—Book 1 (review here)

Owl Manor: Abigail—Book 2 (review here)

Owl Manor: The Final Stroke—Book 3

Purchase Links: Amazon

Goodreads Synopsis:

For a quarter of a century, the horrors at Owl Manor have been buried under dust and decay, forgotten and unheard.

Then Dolores hears the whispers.

Dolores, a young artist, feels the pain all around her. It is the subject of her paintings. Strangely, once the pain is on her canvas, it diminishes.

A fated encounter takes her and her two best friends to Owl Manor in the Rocky Mountains. Ignoring the rumors of a gruesome past and ghosts, they take up residence. What’s the worst that could happen?

But it is the past that has summoned Dolores.

The owls begin to circle the sky again. The whispers get louder, seeping into each of their souls. And Dolores, besieged by the pain of brutal murders in the manor’s history, has no choice but to paint.

For the lives of those close to her hang in the balance.

Inspired by authors like Edgar Allan Poe (The Raven), Daphne du Maurier (Jamaica Inn), and Shirley Jackson (The Haunting of Hill House), Owl Manor – the Final Stroke is the third and final book in the Owl Manor trilogy of Gothic Suspense novels. It follows Owl Manor – the Dawning and Owl Manor – Abigail.


First Line:

My worn books squelched through mud and grit as I trudged down the main thoroughfare of a town.

Owl Manor—The Final Stroke by Zita Harrison

I cannot stress this enough (and I have mentioned it a few times in the previous two reviews for this series), I cannot read Gothic/horror without my husband being home. After finishing this book, I couldn’t close my eyes without seeing several of Dolores’s paintings, Kitty’s theater, or even Rachel’s descent into madness. I was so unnerved by this book, and that was a good thing!!!

Owl Manor—The Final Stroke is the 3rd book in the Owl Manor trilogy. While you can read this as a standalone book, I recommend reading books 1 and 2 first. That way, you can learn about the events that lead up to this book and how they influenced the events that take place in this book.

The author did write a forward to the book explaining how it was written. This book is written in language that was common for the time. She explained that the language combines British English and frontier dialect but is moving towards an informal American dialect. She cited a website (etymobline.com) that she used in her research to make sure it was as authentic as possible.

Owl Manor—The Final Stroke takes place around 30 years after the events of Abigail and around 50ish years after The Dawning. Dolores, Kitty, and Rachel are three friends looking for a place to open a combination restaurant/theater/art gallery. Dolores finds a carved owl at a local fair, and the seller, a young boy, tells her it is from a mansion in the mountains outside of Denver. After seeing the estate, they decide to buy it and renovate it back to its former glory. But, once living there, Dolores (an empath) starts painting pictures of murdered women, the victims of Rafe Bradstone. Her dreams reach a fever pitch as women are being murdered in Denver, and she is compelled to paint them. With Kitty going down a path that includes opium use and promiscuity and Rachel spiraling down into madness, Dolores needs to get to the heart of the mystery, Owl Manor. But can she do it in time to save herself and her friends? Or will they end up being more victims of Owl Manor?

I loved Dolores’s character. She was your typical turn-of-the-century artsy girl who dreamed of doing nothing but her art. She was also an empath who used her art to channel the pain of what she was feeling to canvas. So, when she started having nightmares and was compelled to paint them, it wasn’t new to her. But what was new was how graphic and terrifying the paintings were. The author could take Dolores’s initial feelings and expand on them. Dolores became alarmed at what she was doing. She did try to stop (the scene where she tried to burn the painting will be forever etched in my head) but couldn’t. I was terrified for her when she started painting murders that had just happened. I am going to stop there because of spoilers.

I liked Kitty’s character, but I was not too fond of the turn she took. She had a great vision for her theater, and I thought her first two shows were great. But then, she listened to Cecil, and everything turned. She went from this bright, vibrant girl to someone I didn’t even recognize. It saddened me and made her suspect when prostitutes were being killed in Denver.

I was not too fond of Rachel. She rubbed me the wrong way the entire book. I wasn’t surprised when she started hearing (and eventually seeing) Rafe. I wasn’t surprised by her attitude towards Kitty or how she refused to listen to Dolores. I did, however, think it was interesting that she was the one who looked up Owl Manor’s past, and she was the one who found Rafe’s letters to his father. I did feel bad for her in the end, mainly because she ended up being a pawn in something much bigger than her.

I enjoyed reading the storyline with Dolores, the girls, and their business. I was fascinated to see how it would do. Despite what was going on and how everything turned out, I was still rooting for them to succeed.

The storyline with Dolores and her paintings was frightening. I didn’t blame her for being as scared or fighting it as she was. I knew her paintings connected to Rafe, but I wasn’t sure what the connection was. I thought she might have been Abigail’s daughter, but that was dashed relatively early in the book.

Kitty’s storyline was a little frightening. It showcased how someone like Cecil could easily lead someone as naive as Kitty down the wrong path. Her 180 change of morals and attitude didn’t help with that conception either. I admit that I thought it was Kitty doing the killing until almost the end.

Rachel’s storyline was sad to read. While I didn’t like her, I did think that she had a valid point about being so angry early on in the book. But, as Rafe’s spirit drew her in, I could see her falling down that rabbit hole. I was verbally yelling “No” as she started acting more erratic.

The storyline with Rafe, Eva, and the ghosts was terrifying. I felt terrible for Rafe and the fact that, even in death, he was lost without Eva. So, having that part of the storyline wrapped up the way it did make sense. But the other part of the storyline, the one with the ghosts of the women he murdered, was chilling. I understood that they wanted their stories told, but possession was a little too far in my eyes.

The storyline with the killer was interesting. There were quite a few characters to pick from, and I felt that any of them (except Dolores) could have been the killer. Heck, I even had Gabriel on the shortlist!!

I felt that the author wrote the horror angle of Owl Manor—The Final Stroke amazingly. I was creeped out by what was happening in the manor. I was also creeped out by what was happening mentally and physically to the girls.

There was a slight romance angle to the book that I wasn’t too fond of. But, it didn’t get in the way of the main storylines, and it did add some extra depth to Dolores’s character arc.

The end of Owl Manor—The Final Stroke was interesting. I had chills reading it!! I loved how the author wrapped up the storyline of Rafe and Eva. I also liked how she wrapped up Dolores, Kitty, and Rachel’s storylines. As for the killer, I was shocked at who it ended up being. That person didn’t even make my “who is the killer” list or was even on my radar.

I would recommend Owl Manor—The Final Stroke to anyone over 21. There are sexual situations, mild language, and violence. There is also drug use (Kitty taking opiates) and forced sexual encounters (again, Kitty during the last of her theater dates).


If you enjoyed reading Owl Manor—The Final Stroke, you will enjoy these books:

Owl Manor: Abigail (Owl Manor: Book 2) by Zita Harrison

Publisher: Zealous Arts Publishing

Date of Publication: August 13th, 2020

Genre: Gothic, Horror

Series: Owl Manor

Owl Manor—The Dawning: Book 1 (review here)

Owl Manor—Abigail: Book 2

Owl Manor—The Final Stroke: Book 3

Purchase Links: Amazon | Indigo

Goodreads Synopsis:

14 years ago, Owl Manor trembled with echoes of madness, mysterious deaths, and marauding owls.

In 1870, Abigail fled the horror of Owl Manor with her fiancé, Peter. But she carried with her the terrible notion that she is unworthy of love, instilled by her reluctant mother. If her own mother could not love her, how would anyone else?

She trusts no one and keeps herself buried in a crypt of churning emotions, away from the world. Deep inside, her soul screams at the thought of dying alone and unloved.

Now she is back. Abandoned at the altar, and with nowhere to go, she returns to Owl Manor. Thus begin the nightmares of violent rage and destruction, ghostly images.

What really happened 14 years ago?

Enter Victor, the complete opposite of Peter, yet frighteningly familiar at times.

And the owls circle the sky once again.


First Line:

The white owl sat on the gnarled limb of a tree, deep in the gloom of the woods, its ghostly feathers frothy in the cold.

Owl Manor—Abigail by Zita Harrison

I was pleasantly surprised at how much I liked Owl Manor: The Dawning. So, picking up Owl Manor—Abigail was easy for me. And I am glad that I did because this book was just as fantastic as the first book.

Owl Manor—Abigail starts 14 years after the events of Owl Manor—The Dawning. Abigail, raised by the remaining staff at Owl Manor, is now a young lady. Living in New York City, she is engaged to Peter, an up-and-coming lawyer. But, when Peter gets cold feet and leaves Abigail at the altar, she returns to Denver and Owl Manor. After opening a long-term boarding house at the manor, Abigail is introduced to an exciting group of people. Victor, a boarder, has caught Abigail’s eye. But there is something very unsettling and something familiar about Victor. Abigail doesn’t have time to dwell on that because the owls have returned and, with them, murder. Who has riled the owls up, and what is that person’s connection to the house? Will Abigail, her staff, and her boarders survive a murderer in their midst?

Owl Manor—Abigail is the second book in the Owl Manor trilogy. While you don’t need to read book 1 to understand what is going on in this book, I do highly recommend reading it. The backstories of Abigail, Patty, and the house are quickly explained, but reading book one will give you some insight into what is going on in this book.

I felt terrible for Abigail in this book. Her mother’s neglect turned Abigail into a person who was afraid to open herself up. I was internally cursing Eva for what she did to that poor girl. I did think that Abigail was a little rude during the book. There were several scenes where she berated servants and her boarders for talking about ghosts. But there was a reason behind her doing it: Abigail didn’t want that gossip attached to her boardinghouse. She was trying to run a respectable business, and that gossip would turn people away. When Abigail started getting involved with Victor, I was happy. I felt that she could finally be happy. The author decimated that idea in the next chapter—all I could do after that was read and see where and how her story would end.

I thought Victor was an interesting character to read. I understood why he wanted to keep his identity a secret at first. He was trying to figure out who Abigail was and why she ended up with Rafe’s money and house. I think his feelings for Abigail were true in the beginning. But, as the book went on, his slow slide into madness was genuinely riveting. The author weaved his story around Rafe’s so that they became the same, and I loved it!!

The love triangle between Peter, Abigail, and Victor was interesting. I wasn’t a big fan of Peter when he showed up. The guy left Abigail at the altar and stewed for months afterward, trying to figure out his feelings. I was 100% team Victor until one of the servants overheard some interesting information at the local pub. At that point, I was content to sit back and see how the author would unfold this triangle. And I wasn’t disappointed!!

The storyline about the manor, what happened before, and how it was connected to the murders was amazingly written. That storyline was one of the main reasons why I couldn’t put the book down. I couldn’t figure out who the murderer was. I thought it was someone else until that person was killed. And when the author revealed who it was, I couldn’t believe it.

The horror angle of the book was well written. This book kept me up at night (after I finished it). I kept thinking about Owl Manor and how evil it was. I couldn’t understand why Abigail didn’t take the advice in the end. I know I would have.

There is a paranormal element to the book that is amazing. The author took your typical haunted house/possession and made it her own. The parallels between the first book were uncanny, and hearing Rafe asking for Eva (through Victor) was chilling. And it got even more chilling as the book went on.

I wasn’t surprised at the end of Owl Manor—Abigail. But I was surprised at who survived and how a specific person met his end. The way the author ended the book, I knew there was going to be a book 3, and I was very excited to read it.

I would recommend Owl Manor—Abigail to anyone over 16. There is violence, mild language, and no sexual situations (other than some kissing).


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