by Terrie Leigh Relf
“Lost Our Lease—Everything Must Go!” read the store sign. Not that I fell for that old gimmick, but I seriously deserved a new mattress.
I wandered about the rows of singles and doubles, paused beside a lone queen with a sigh.
A salesperson rushed over. “This you lucky day! Special price. Free delivery!” Then with one fluid motion, he whisked off the plastic and catapulted me onto the mattress.
Stunned, I tried to get up, but couldn’t move.
“Queen deserve you, too,” the salesperson said with a nod, as I sank further and further and further into Her depths.
Reviewed by Kristi DeMeester
In the deep heat and humidity of a small Southern town, Coil Stevens returns to the family homestead after a fifteen-year absence. Years ago, a terrifying event left Coil’s sister, Cass, on the verge of death at what appeared to be her brother’s hand. Plagued by gossip and rumor that he raped and beat his sister, Coil fled his hometown and put down roots in New York where he struggles to recapture the artistic talent of his youth that disappeared after the incident in the woods. In fact, it seems as if Cass leeched the talent out of him as she enjoys a successful career.
But now, Coil has come home to deal with his sister who has had a recent accident and now suffers from sundowners: a syndrome of episodic violence that coincides with the setting sun. As Coil finds himself enmeshed once more in the whispers he ran from fifteen years prior, he re-discovers his talent by frenetically painting in his sleep. His paintings, however, point toward an evil that has infected the townspeople and driven them to lurid, murderous acts.
The incident in the woods holds the key, and to help his sister, Coil must face something darker even than the accusations he faced as a teen. He returns to the woods to confront the horrible thing plaguing his sister and the town.
Brown’s strongest writing happens smack dab in the middle of this book. The first chapter is obscure and repetitive. A voice calling from far away. A summoning that is eerily recognizable. A command that must be followed. And so on and so forth. In reading this, I rolled my eyes. I couldn’t help it. I feared that what followed was going to be much of the same, and I couldn’t bear the idea of dragging myself through boring horror tropes for 206 pages. My apologies to Ms. Brown. I was wrong, and I have never been more relieved.
There are some truly horrifying moments that occur in small licks throughout the book. The chapters written concerning the townspeople are particularly well done, and the novel builds nicely toward the reveal of exactly what happened to Cass and Coil in the woods and the final showdown. The pacing creates a feeling of suspension, a sense of eeriness that crawls up the spine and lingers, and many of the scenes stick with you long after reading (read the chapter called “Pitter, Patter” and see that I’m not kidding).
I’m not sure what I was expecting the reveal to be. I’ve always found not seeing the monster to be a better bet than revealing it in all of its obscene glory, and I appreciate the anticipation that Brown creates. The sense of unease and wrongness that she develops in so many of the scenes is spot on. But the reveal, which deals with the nature of the muse, wasn’t exactly what I wanted. In fact, it was something of a strange let down. The descriptions are wonderful, and Brown is a talented writer, but there was a piece of me that found the evil lurking in the woods a bit, well, hokey isn’t exactly the right word, but it will serve.
Despite my misgivings regarding the ending, I’d still recommend the book. There are certainly moments that will keep you watching that strange shadow in the corner and awake long into the night.
The Second-Worst Day
by Peter DiChellis
For twenty harrowing years they guarded the wretched secret of his nature. The second-worst day of their lives was the day they finally killed him, this abomination they called their son. The worst was the day he burrowed from his crude grave and took revenge. He found them hiding in a barren church, huddled together, sobbing and praying. Before he slaughtered them, he spat five words at their faces: Death feels cold and lonely.
BIO: Peter DiChellis writes short mystery-suspense fiction. His sinister tales appear in a handful of publications, including Shotgun Honey, Over My Dead Body!, YELLOW MAMA, and the anthologies The Shamus Sampler (Volumes I and II) and Plan B Volume III. For more, visit his site Murder and Fries at http://murderandfries.wordpress.com/
Reviewed by Sheri White
Mary has lived alone in the valley for sixteen years, exiled by her husband due to a relationship gone awry. Now she spends her days gardening, baking, living her quiet life and enjoying her solitude. Until the day a stranger strayed away from the path and into her home. When he offers her freedom, her entire existence is threatened.
She refuses to go back, and is visited by others, urging her to return to the city and her husband. The city is crippled and her husband wants her home. Mary wants to stay, but now storms are descending upon her home and wild dogs are threatening her.
But once Mary faces her fears of her husband and the city, she is confronted with a reality she is not sure she can accept.
Tim Lebbon is well-known in the horror community for his novelizations of popular horror and science fiction movies, as well as authoring his own novels. In the Valley is a quieter story, with beautifully written scenes that spark the reader’s imagination. A sense of unease permeates the story, leading to an ending that works perfectly.
In addition to this wonderful novella, a bonus story called “The God of Rain” is found at the end of the book.
In the Valley, Where Belladonna Grows is a story that will stay with you long after you’ve read it.
by Terrie Leigh Relf
It was the first time I’d ever seen snow, and it was so pretty. Daddy said, “Each flake is unique—just like you, sweetie.” Then he gave me a hug, and I let him. I wish I could have hugged him back.
My breath fogged the window up and Daddy drew a smiley face in it.
“You’re so silly. Can we go outside—please!”
Daddy shook his head and looked so sad when he said, “Sorry, sweetie, but it’s way too cold out there and. . .”
“Toxic?” I whispered.
Daddy nodded, then turned away, thought, just like you, sweetie.
Horror comes in many forms.
There’s a misconception about horror, that it has to be bloody, it has to be filled with entrails and viscera, it has to have demons or knives. It has to involve vampires. It has to have a monster.
But horror has many faces. It can be a mother, in the heat of summer, alone in an empty parking lot, realizing she’s locked her keys and purse in the car… with her twelve-month old infant strapped in the back seat. It can be a stalker in an alley or a withering disease. Horror comes in many shapes and sizes, some of them more mundane than others, some perhaps messier. But in the end, all horror stories have one thing in common. The monster is the truth.
That truth may be that we all die one day. Those we love, those we care about, will all at some point, cease to breathe, cease to walk and laugh, cease to tell their stories, and simply become inert.
In this collection you’ll find a variety of ways in which the truth is told. People trapped in their own bodies, infected and mindless, forced to obey their hunger; men seeking the cosmic truth to find they wish they’d never discovered it; the Antichrist with his own congregation of followers, with claws and wings and livers for eyes; a parasitic fungus which feeds on information, memories, and bodies; a corporation makes a devil’s bargain with people too desperate for work to say no; a failing author finds himself possessed to write a horror bestseller at a steep price; a crime investigation turns into something far more terrifying; a man finds himself haunted by a child born in the catacombs of a sanitarium; this guy keeps appearing and I can’t stop killing him.
All these stories speak of the unspoken truths, of the dark places in our minds we pretend we don’t see. They speak of entropy in its purest form, of the all-devouring maw to which we all return one day.
So step right in, take a seat. Face the truth with us. – Martin Kee
The initial titles in the bundle (minimum $3 to purchase) are:
- Bloom by Martin Kee
- Hell’s Muse by Jack Wallen
- Limbus, Inc. by Jonathan Maberry, Joseph Nassise, Benjamin Kane Ethridge, Brett J. Talley and Anne C. Petty
- That Which Should Not Be by Brett J. Talley
- Tunnel Vision by Tanya Eby
- Crime Seen by Michaelbrent Collings
If you pay more than the bonus price of just $12, you’ll get another three books:
- Irregular Creatures by Chuck Wendig
- I, Zombie by Hugh Howey
- The Red Church by Scott Nicholson
The bundle is available for a very limited time only, via http://www.storybundle.com. It allows easy reading on computers, smartphones, and tablets as well as Kindle and other ereaders via file transfer, email, and other methods. You get multiple DRM-free formats (.epub, and .mobi) for all books, but after the three weeks are over, the bundle is gone forever!
It’s also super easy to give the gift of reading with StoryBundle, thanks to our gift cards – which allow you to send someone a code that they can redeem for any future StoryBundle bundle – and timed delivery, which allows you to control exactly when your recipient will get the gift of StoryBundle.
Why StoryBundle? Here are just a few benefits StoryBundle provides.
- Get quality reads: We’ve chosen works from excellent authors to bundle together in one convenient package.
- Pay what you want (minimum $3): You decide how much four fantastic books are worth to you. If you can only spare a little, that’s fine! You’ll still get access to SIX thrilling titles.
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StoryBundle was created to give a platform for independent authors to showcase their work, and a source of quality titles for thirsty readers. StoryBundle works with authors to create bundles of ebooks that can be purchased by readers at their desired price. Before starting StoryBundle, Founder Jason Chen covered technology and software as an editor for Gizmodo.com and Lifehacker.com.