Within the Darkness (Wisteria Series, Book 2) By Shelby Lamb

Within the Darkness

Genre – Fiction

Category – Dark Fantasy/Dystopian/Horror

Pages – 365

Publication Information – Shelby Anonymous – January 4, 2019

Reviewed by William C. Bitner, Jr.

Rating – 📙📙📙📙📙

 

This is a mind numbing and wonderfully bizarre, as well as wonderfully and intensely weird series of books.  Within the Darkness (Wisteria Series, Book 2), by Shelby Lamb is brilliant.  The first book in the series Something, was good but book two is beyond anything I’ve ever read before.  It comes with a warning, as well it should. This book will not be for everyone, but it should be read by everyone.  It deals with some very sensitive issues, to wit; rape, depression and suicide to name just a few. We are not so much in a place as we are in a feeling or a sense of being or situation (I realize that sound baffling, but if you read the book you will understand where I’m coming from).  The characters are on a quest in an alternative reality to make it to a safe house or safe place in hopes of making it back to the main world and a place of safety. They must go through much degradation, torture and shame filled situations along the way. Like Aldous Huxley, Ms Lamb really tries, and in my opinion succeeds in messing with the reader’s mind in relation to one’s perception of reality.  This is not an easy read, it’s thought provoking and brutally honest on so many levels. It’s a book that will have you questioning what is and what isn’t real in life. Once you go down this rabbit hole there’s only one way out. Try to come back with your sanity. Keep in mind at the end of this book that this is indeed a second book in a series of books and the ending of this book will not give you a complete picture or answer all the reader’s questions.  As a matter of fact, I have more questions now then I did at the beginning of book one! That’s not a bad thing, it means that book three will be filled with treasures to be absorbed. If you’re looking for something off the beaten path, and something that will have you diving into the pages and wanting more…this is the book for you. Hopefully I did this book some justice with my review. It is just brilliant beyond words.

 

Synopsis (from the back cover):   “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you mad.”

 

— Aldous Huxley

 

Aubrey has done it. She has teleported herself to “the hidden domain” and have managed to bring along her dream boy, Nathan, and nemesis/ex-besty Adelaide. But how could this be? They were all just at a party. No one knew getting into the backyard shed and saying the “magic words” would work. And the three are absolutely stunned. But the world Aubrey thought would be a wonderful paradise is actually a nightmare. As beautiful and enchanting as it is, Wisteria is like jumping down the rabbit hole with the Devil waiting on the sidelines.

 

The people are different in this world. They are monsters, and not just physically. The Moss Wall is supposed to serve as a protection, separating the demons from the non-demons, but that doesn’t mean Aubrey and her friends are safe. Non-demon Aristocrats are nasty and cruel, indulging in their favorite daily past-time: the torture of the red maidens.

 

And as for the handsome demon boy who wants Aubrey’s soul? “You’ll never escape,” warned fairies swooping down on her.

 

But Aubrey, Nathan, and Adelaide won’t go down without a fight. They simply must make it to the safe house and find their way out of the realm. Thankfully The Underground Annual is on its way. It is the biggest party, an explosive rave that happens once a year. And now it is their only window of opportunity. But will their plan succeed?

 

About Shelby Lamb: Shelby Lamb (A.K.A Shelby Anonymous) is an author/non-judgemental Hindu-Christian/demon slayer who loves exploring the weird and unsettling. She writes fiction from her own personal life experiences, the depths of her imagination, and the inspiration around her. Something (Wisteria 1) is her debut work. Since struggling with depression, anxiety, and borderline personality disorder, a bit of her knowledge of these dark emotions and feelings are crafted into each of her stories. She is proud of her writing. They may not be for everyone but she is thoughtful and careful in her narrations, as she grew up on literary fiction and still wants to give her books a flavor of that even if they are in select genres. In a way, she writes for a narrower audience, hoping to heal other sufferers of trauma. She doesn’t believe in sugar-coating because real issues are to be delved into even in fiction as to be able to relate is to heal in her humble opinion. Aubrey in particular in Something, book one of the Wisteria series is for her a very intimate character. As Aubrey has borderline personality herself. But as Aubrey grows to heal from her tragic inner turmoil and psychological trauma she hopes it can inspire other suffers from mental illnesses to see the light through the darkness, learn healthy coping skills, and become their best selves. Even though she is devoted for the time being into completing the Wisteria series, she wants to later delve into clean suspense Christian fiction. For the time being she works on darker material to hopefully open doors for other victims of trauma into following along her works into seeing that life isn’t so hard when you have God and the Universe rooting for you.

 

She lives in a magical Canadian town. Doesn’t own cats right now but wishes to adopt several one day soon!

 

Other books by Shelby Lamb: Something (Wisteria Series – Book One), Kirsten and Ally – Book 1, Kirsten and Ally – Book 2, Lovely Differences, Lovely Bones, Her (Episodes 1, 2, & 3) and Mary Had a Little Shadow.

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An Army of Skin By Morgan K. Tanner

An Army of Skin

Genre – Fiction/Novella

Category – Horror/Dark Humor/Supernatural/Psychological Thriller

Pages – 123

Publication Information – Independently Published – January 15, 2019

Reviewed by William C. Bitner

Rating – 📙📙📙📙📙

People ask me from time to time why I read so many Independent Authors – and I just say they are some of the best pieces of literature out there.  And, An Army of
Skin by Morgan K. Tanner is a prime example of that standard.  Amazingly this is Morgan K. Tanner’s debut novella, but that would not seem obvious from his writing.  The character development in this book was done expertly and with great care. There’s dark, macabre, gallows humor sprinkled throughout this book which only adds to the, if I must admit, a certain charm (not something you always find in a horror novella). A wonderfully imagined concept and brilliant writing add up to a stellar read.  I am so looking forward to future works by this talented new face. A note about the cover of this book – All hail M.R. Tapia – this is a stunning cover Manuel!

Synopsis (from the back cover): After losing his mother to a brain tumour, Trevor King feels totally alone in the world. Someone needs to pay for her death and Dr Mellick, Trevor’s work colleague and family GP, is the man he holds responsible. Trevor’s yearning for vengeance leads him to concoct a vicious plot to frame the doctor for multiple murders. Trevor skins the corpses, turning them into elaborate art pieces after being inspired by a mysterious textbook. But as the skins of the flayed victims come to life and continue the killings for him, Trevor wonders whether he is in too deep.When Dr Mellick goes missing Trevor becomes convinced the doctor is planning a similar scheme to bring him down.But as Trevor discovers the truth of his mother’s death and his own life, this murderous path becomes more of a calling.

About Morgan K. Tanner:  Morgan K Tanner is a writer, drummer, and golfist currently residing in the English countryside. The idyllic surroundings make it an ideal place to write, drum, and hide the bodies. The busy sound of the typewriter is perfect to drown out the hum of the antiquated torture equipment. His works of fiction and threats have appeared in the mailboxes of many a celebrity, who then sells their story to the tabloids, claiming they are being ‘terrorized.’

The Hierophant’s Daughter – Disgraced Martyr Trilogy – Book 1 By M.F. Sullivan

The Hierophant's Daughter

Genre – Fiction

Category – Science Fiction/Speculative Fiction/LGBT/Fantasy

Pages – 298

Publication Information – Painted Blind Publishing (May 19, 2019)

Reviewed by William C. Bitner, Jr.

Rating – 📙📙📙📙📙

 

I finished reading The Hierophant’s Daughter, Disgraced Martyr Trilogy, Book One by M.F. Sullivan a few days ago, and I’ve just be wondering what I can possibly say about this phenomenal piece of fiction that would be a credit to it’s achievement.  First I want to say that it took me a little longer than I expected to read the 298 pages. It’s a complex story that had me perplexed and confused in the beginning pages.  I am happy to say however that sticking to it paid off in a much larger aspect than I could have ever imagined. The world building and character development is astonishingly vivid and the story begins to develop right before your eyes on the pages.  It really was an experience reading this book. I’m gobsmacked and left in a state of wonderment about what the next chapters will bring to light. This is a difficult piece of fiction to put into any one category as it really touches on so many issues and crosses many genre boundaries.  It is just something that must be experienced by just opening up your mind and allowing the story to just sink in. I am fast becoming a big fan of M.F. Sullivan and cannot wait for the next installment.

 

Synopsis (from the back cover): By 4042 CE, the Hierophant and his Church have risen to political dominance with his cannibalistic army of genetically modified humans: martyrs. In an era when mankind’s intergenerational cold wars against their long-lived predators seem close to running hot, the Holy Family is poised on the verge of complete planetary control. It will take a miracle to save humanity from extinction.

 

It will also take a miracle to resurrect the wife of 331-year-old General Dominia di Mephitoli, who defects during martyr year 1997 AL in search of Lazarus, the one man rumored to bring life to the dead. With the Hierophant’s Project Black Sun looming over her head, she has little choice but to believe this Lazarus is really all her new friends say he is–assuming he exists at all–and that these companions of hers are really able to help her. From the foulmouthed Japanese prostitute with a few secrets of her own to the outright sapient dog who seems to judge every move, they don’t inspire a lot of confidence, but the General has to take the help she can get.

 

After all, Dominia is no ordinary martyr. She is THE HIEROPHANT’S DAUGHTER, and her Father won’t let her switch sides without a fight. Not when she still has so much to learn.

 

About M.F. Sullivan: M.F. Sullivan is a playwright and novelist currently living in the scenic town of Ashland, Oregon. There, the author is hard at work on a new trilogy and a slew of plays. Sullivan’s interests include consciousness, language, and how the literary arts can be used to expand them both.
Other work by M.F. Sullivan: The Lighting Stenography Device: A Psychedelic Odyssey, and Delilah, My Women: A Dark Transgressive Romance.

Foster’s Sandman Shop By z119z

foster's sandman shop

Genre – Fiction

Category – Science Fiction/Gay/Speculative

Pages – 323

Publication Info – January 25, 2016

Reviewed by – William C. Bitner, Jr.

Rating – 📙

I’m afraid that by the end of the strangeness that is Foster’s Sandman Shop by the even stranger author name z119z I was left somewhat nonplused.  I so wanted to like this book and thought the concept was quite interesting. However, it missed the mark for me in many areas.  The thing that annoyed me the most, the thing that annoyed me the most, the thing that annoyed me the most was the repetition. You can only sit through and read the same hypnosis narrative so many times no matter who’s doing the hypnosis.  Filled with some of the most unbelievable gibberish I’ve read in quite some time. From the manimals to the idea of hypnotising a lover to be your S/M partner to a murder mystery that continues to be a mystery to me at books end. I’m really not sure what I just read!  This book has some interesting reviews however, it’s a 1 star or a 5 star depending on what you like I guess. There doesn’t seem to be any inbetween. I almost gave up and was on the verge of not finishing this book, but hoped for some redemption towards the end….but alas there was none.

Synopsis (from the back cover): Foster’s Sandman Shop has just what Mark Simmons needs to get the good night’s sleep he craves. What he doesn’t know is that his purchase of a white noise machine is the beginning of his conversion into a “unit.” Using hypnosis and mind-control techniques, Kenneth Foster, the owner of the Sandman Shop, conditions Mark to become a puppet anxious to satisfy his owner’s every need—business, domestic, and sexual—and then sells him into a life of slavery.

The rundown façade of Foster’s Sandman Shop hides more than a lucrative trade in highly skilled “personal assistants,” however. Kenneth Foster has grown impatient with the slow pace of hypnosis and has turned to mind-control drugs. But this pursuit is endangered when the man he hires to conduct tests of the drugs commits a sadistic murder. In the search for the murderer, NYPD Lieutenant Matt Dell’uomo and his team of detectives stumble across Foster’s ambitious plans.

For Dell’uomo, the case becomes more than a quest to solve a crime. His encounters with two of Foster’s employees, Jeff Ange and Michael Sorenson, awaken desires that he has long suppressed.

The Last Thing I Told You By Emily Arsenault

the last thing i told you

Genre – Fiction

Category – Psychological Thriller/Mystery

Pages – 416

Publication Info – William Morrow Paperbacks (July 24, 2018)

Reviewed by – William C. Bitner, Jr.

Rating – 📙📙📙📙📙

I finished reading The Last Thing I Told You by Emily Arsenault a few days ago.  This really was an entertaining and fun mystery thriller.  One of the things I liked about it was the alternating narrative, with a chapter being told from the viewpoint of Nadine Rains and the next being told from the viewpoint of Detective Henry Peacher.  This narrative format continued throughout the book and was very effective in the telling of a very interesting and twisted tale. These pages are filled with twists and turns that will give the reader whiplash.  It has that “I didn’t see that coming” effect in a few spots. A fast paced character driven read that will hold your attention and having you guessing. This is my first read by this author but it’s safe to say that I will most definitely be checking out more of her work in the future.

Synopsis (from the back cover): I hear myself whispering. Not again. Not again.

Why did I ever come back here? Surely because of you. Because I thought of something I’d always meant to tell you. Because you were the only one I ever really wanted to tell it to…

Therapist Dr. Mark Fabian is dead—bludgeoned in his office.

But that doesn’t stop former patient Nadine Raines from talking to him—in her head. Why did she come back to her hometown after so many years away? Everyone here thinks she’s crazy. And she has to admit—they might have good reason to think so. She committed a shockingly violent act when she was sixteen, and has never really been able to explain that dark impulse—even to Fabian. Now that Fabian’s dead, why is she still trying?

Meanwhile, as Detective Henry Peacher investigates Fabian’s death, he discovers that shortly before he died, Fabian pulled the files of two former patients. One was of Nadine Raines, one of Henry’s former high school classmates. Henry still remembers the disturbing attack on a teacher that marked Nadine as a deeply troubled teen.

More shockingly, the other file was of Johnny Streeter, who is now serving a life sentence for a mass shooting five years ago. The shooting devastated the town and everyone—including Henry, who is uncomfortable with the “hero” status the tragedy afforded him—is ready to move on. But the appearance of his file brings up new questions. Maybe there is a decades-old connection between Nadine and Streeter. And maybe that somehow explains what Nadine is doing in Fabian’s office nearly twenty years after being his patient. Or how Fabian ended up dead two days after her return. Or why Nadine has fled town once again.

But as Nadine and Henry head toward a confrontation, both will discover that the secrets of people’s hearts are rarely simple, and—even in the hidden depths of a psychologist’s files—rarely as they appear.

About the Author: Emily Arsenault has worked as a lexicographer, an English teacher, and a Peace Corps volunteer in rural South Africa. She now lives in Shelburne Falls, MA, with her husband.

Other books by Emily Arsenault: The Broken Teaglass, What Strange Creatures, In Search of the Rose Notes, Miss Me When I’m Gone and The Evening Spider.

Angel of the Underground By David Andreas

angel of the underground

Genre – Fiction

Sub-genre – Psychological Thriller/Suspense/Religion/Horror

Pages – 160

Publication Info – Kaylie Jones Books (December 8, 2017)

Reviewed by – William C. Bitner, Jr.

Rating – 📙📙📙📙📙

 

I think after reading Angel of the Underground by David Andreas, you would be surprised to know that this is his debut novel.  It surely doesn’t read that way. It’s a tight well formed piece of literature with very detailed story and very character heavy.  Sometimes you come across a book that feels like it’s reading itself, or at least takes very little effort on the readers part to imagine what’s going on.  This is one such book. A very entertaining, yet easy read. Some reviewers have said that they were reminded of Stephen King whilst reading this book, I must agree with that comparison somewhat.  It remains to be seen if Mr. Andreas continues with the same style in his next endeavor, but if he does you may one day be comparing other writers to his work. I look forward to what may be next from this talented word-smith and wholeheartedly recommend this book.

Synopsis (from back cover): When three children in a Catholic group home are brutally murdered, the survivors are hurried into separate foster homes across Long Island. Robin Hills, a fifteen-year-old who has spent the past several years under religious care, is thrust into a new, dysfunctional family with no spiritual beliefs. No longer protected by the religion and the nun she had come to love, Robin is completely alone and enveloped in fear.

As the murders continue and Robin fears she may become the next victim, her faith increasingly falters. However, she finds solace in a budding friendship with Dennis, a boy her age living in her new foster home. Dennis’s kindness, his acceptance of Robin, and his bravery in the face of evil―born of his passion for horror movies―combine to reassure her that she’ll survive the killings.

Armed with this new friendship and fueled by a rage she finally discovers within herself, Robin finds the courage and self-reliance to confront the darkest aspects of human depravity.

About the Author: When his eyes fell upon Fangoria #82 during the spring of 1989, David Andreas became addicted to all things horror. The highlight of his life (so far) is having interned there during the summer of 1999. While amassing several thousand reviews for his own website, splattercritic.com, David received a Master of Fine Arts degree from LIU Southampton. Since 2007, he’s been teaching English at several colleges, most notably St. Joseph’s College in Patchogue, NY.

Body of Christ By Mark Matthews

body of christ

Genre – Fiction

Sub-genre – Christian Horror/Novella/Fantasy

Pages – 95

Publication Info – Wicked Run Press (January 8, 2018)

Reviewed by – William C. Bitner, Jr. (https://booksinmylibraryblog.wordpress.com/)

Rating – 📙📙📙📙📙

It seems I’ve started the New Year off with one hell of a read in Body of Christ by Mark Matthews.  I must admit I’ve never read anything quite like this before, but I look forward to much more of Mark’s writing if this is even a small measure of what he is capable of. This was not a comfortable read in the least, and I think that’s what made it so intriguing.  This is some hardcore in your face sacrilege, or is it a true and honest example of the cult of religion. You will have to decide which after reading this thought provoking, intense and brilliant bit of prose. I’ve always thought Christian Horror or Religious Horror to be a bit of an oxymoron and still stand by that analogy after this read.  If you’re looking for something unique, outside the box and entertaining as hell may I suggest you pick up a copy of Body of Christ by Mark Matthews.  I look forward to many more hours of reading from this talented wordsmith.

Synopsis (from back cover):  After his first Holy Communion, a boy secretly builds his own Jesus out of communion wafers and the flesh of his dad.

On Halloween night, his Jesus shall rise.

After a tragic death, a girl tends to the Cemetery of the Innocents, a memorial to the holocaust of abortion and children killed before their time.

On Halloween night, the children shall live, and they need to be fed.

The Holy Spirit comes to life in this shocking, transgressive story of Christian Horror

About the Author:  Mark Matthews is a graduate of the University of Michigan and a licensed professional counselor who has worked in behavioral health for over 20 years. He is the author of On the Lips of Children, All Smoke Rises, and Milk-Blood, as well as the editor of Garden of Fiends: Tales of Addiction Horror. Matthews has run 13 marathons, and has two running based books, The Jade Rabbit and Chasing the Dragon. He lives near Detroit with his wife and two daughters.

Other work by Mark Matthews:  Chasing the Dragon: Running to Get High, On the Lips of Children, All Smoke Rises: Milk-Blood Redux, Milk-Blood, The Damage Done, Stray, The Jade Rabbit, Lily’s Tale: The Milk-Blood Trilogy, and has contributed to Garden of Fiends: Tales of Addiction Horror, Bad Apples: Halloween Horror: The Complete Collection, Dark Carnival: An Anthology of Horror, and Bad Apples 3: Seven Slices of Halloween Horror (Bad Apples Halloween Horror).