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My Heart is a Chainsaw

*** I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review from NetGalley ***

Publisher’s Description:

“Some girls just don’t know how to die…”

Jade Daniels is an angry, half-Indian outcast with an abusive father, an absent mother, and an entire town that wants nothing to do with her. She lives in her own world, a world in which protection comes from an unusual source: horror movies…especially the ones where a masked killer seeks revenge on a world that wronged them. And Jade narrates the quirky history of Proofrock as if it is one of those movies. But when blood actually starts to spill into the waters of Indian Lake, she pulls us into her dizzying, encyclopedic mind of blood and masked murderers, and predicts exactly how the plot will unfold.

Yet, even as Jade drags us into her dark fever dream, a surprising and intimate portrait emerges…a portrait of the scared and traumatized little girl beneath the Jason Voorhees mask: angry, yes, but also a girl who easily cries, fiercely loves, and desperately wants a home. A girl whose feelings are too big for her body. My Heart Is a Chainsaw is her story, her homage to horror and revenge and triumph.


Review:

My recent read was horror novel My Heart is a Chainsaw by US author Stephen Graham Jones.

The protagonist of My Heart is a Chainsaw is Jade Daniels, a seventeen year old Native American girl living in Proofrock , Idaho. Derived by her peers, obsessed with slasher movies to hide a darker personal betrayal than a town that ignores her, Jade is trapped by the bleakness of her position, unable to escape living with her alcoholic father and shunned by Proofrock. What Jades wants more than anything is revenge for being unseen. When two Swedish travellers are murdered in Indian Lake, the manner suggestive of a local legend, a child called Stacey Graves or the ‘Lake Witch’ who has historically been blamed for many murders over the generations in Proofrock. Jade believes this is the beginning of her chance to see Proofrock punished for ignoring her abuse and her.

On the opposite side of Indian Lake is Terra Nova, the once-national park and Shoshone territory, now a construction site for incredibly wealthy families called the Founders. Jade strikes an unlikely friendship with Letha, daughter of one of the Founders and in Jade’s senior year. In the ensuring carnage and slowly rising body count, the identity of the murderer remains unclear, the reason for the slayings equally puzzling as threads of people’s lives cross and some are cut permanently. One thing Jade is certain about is that Letha is the Final Girl of Proofrock, the only one who can destroy the slasher in the very real reckoning for Proofrock. But Jade is forced to confront the realisation that slashers are fictional, following a genre while real life does not. Forced into grim reality, Jade tackles the wrathful supernatural force of Stacey Graves and finds her own heart is a chainsaw, roaring into being with a powerful need to survive, defend herself and those few like Letha she cares about.

Final Thoughts:

My Heart is a Chainsaw was a wonderful exploration of the slasher genre which combines supernatural elements boosted by Graham Jones’s characteristic style: tensioning the unknown with sudden shocks of horror. It works beautifully and is so skilfully done, it drives the story forward, keeps the reader on edge, waiting for the next sudden shock. There are strong characters and some explorations of very dark themes which give such a strong literary quality to the novel. Although My Heart is a Chainsaw felt a little slow to get into focus, once it did, it was impossible to stop reading.

Conclusion:

Absolutely can’t recommend this one enough! I enjoyed The Only Good Indians so much but this one is my new favourite by Stephen Graham Jones. Recommended for readers who enjoy horror of all sorts, psychological and dark fiction styles, lovers of the slasher genre and supernatural tales. A must-read!

research, Short Fiction, stories

Dark Christmas Lore


Christmas is a time for celebration and family gatherings, right? Strictly speaking, yes. But there are darker lores beneath the celebration many of us enjoy each year. The folklore surrounding the Krampus and even Saint Nicholas and the Butcher are grisly territory.

When I travelled to Iceland in 2019 for research, I found a very different set of folklores related to Christmas and the span of Yuletide. The folklore of thirteen Yule trolls who terrorise and disrupt Icelandic life for thirteen days is eclipsed by the arrival of their mother, the cannibalistic troll-witch Gryla who steals away children to cook into stew for her large family in their mountain cave.

Fascinated by this dark and fable-like warning of the dangers around Yuletide in Iceland, I was inspired to write a short story featuring Gryla and the Yule trolls, focusing on the darker natures the Yule trolls reportedly once possessed before modern sanctification of their images.

reads, Recent Reads

Starve Acre

Publisher’s Description

The worst thing possible has happened. Richard and Juliette Willoughby’s son, Ewan, has died suddenly at the age of five. Starve Acre, their house by the moors, was to be full of life, but is now a haunted place.

Juliette, convinced Ewan still lives there in some form, seeks the help of the Beacons, a seemingly benevolent group of occultists. Richard, to try and keep the boy out of his mind, has turned his attention to the field opposite the house, where he patiently digs the barren dirt in search of a legendary oak tree.

Starve Acre is a devastating new novel by the author of the prize-winning bestseller The Loney. It is a novel about the way in which grief splits the world in two and how, in searching for hope, we can so easily unearth horror.


Review

I read horror folklore novella Starve Acre by UK author Andrew Michael Hurley after many recommendations. It did not disappoint!

Starve Acre follows protagonist Richard and his wife Juliette six months after the unexpected death of their son, Ewan. The couple are struggling to mend their marriage and Juliette is convinced Ewan’s ghost still haunts the house. When Juliette invites a group of occultists into the house to help with Ewan’s ghost, she is remarkably healed for a while, her thoughts of Ewan almost vanished as though he never existed in their lives.

Juliette’s husband Richard, has become fascinated with a legendary oak tree that once grew in the now fallow field of Starve Acre, a plot of land where nothing grows and where the oak tree -where once men were hanged for crimes – no evidence remains. But Richard finds the roots of the oak tree and a skeleton of a hare. Bringing the skeleton of the hare inside the house, Richard begins a dark reworking of magic and horror that is reborn from the fallow earth of Starve Acre.

Final Thoughts

Starve Acre is a only a novella but written in a skilful literary style more commonly found in novel-length volumes. Weaving together complex characters and events, important details are revealed like breadcrumbs leading the reader to the final truth of the mystery of Starve Acre. It is a glorious dark fiction tale, strong in gothic folklore and utterly chilling.

Conclusion

A highly recommended read. Starve Acre is a must-read for fans of dark fiction, those who enjoy gothic folklore, a literary contemporary fantasy and readers who enjoy a chilling mystery. Thrilling!

events, Short Fiction, stories

Summer Terrors Release

It’s summer in the northern hemisphere and today, US publisher Black Ink Fiction released their next holiday microfiction anthology Summer Terrors.

Summer Terrors features my two dark tales of macabre Australian summer with the grisly “Summer at the Beach” and, inspiration from Namorroddos, terrifying winged vampire beings from Australian Aboriginal lore in “Summer Moon, Leather Wings.”

You can find more details on how to purchase Summer Terrors as an ebook or paperback copy here.


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The Ghost Tree

Publisher’s Description

When the bodies of two girls are found torn apart in the town of Smiths Hollow, Lauren is surprised, but she also expects that the police won’t find the killer. After all, the year before her father’s body was found with his heart missing, and since then everyone has moved on. Even her best friend, Miranda, has become more interested in boys than in spending time at the old ghost tree, the way they used to when they were kids.

So when Lauren has a vision of a monster dragging the remains of the girls through the woods, she knows she can’t just do nothing. Not like the rest of her town. But as she draws closer to answers, she realizes that the foundation of her seemingly normal town might be rotten at the center. And that if nobody else stands for the missing, she will.


Review

One of my very recent reads was The Ghost Tree by US horror and dark fantasy author Christina Henry.

The Ghost Tree follows the protagonist, fifteen year old Lauren after the brutal murder of her father and the subsequent lack of police investigation. As Lauren enters adolescence properly, the childhood friendship with Miranda – who has been using Lauren to make herself seem more adult and important – begins to crumble. The one thing still shared between Miranda and Lauren is the Ghost Tree in the woods, an ancient and lightning scarred tree in the woods just beyond the edge of the township of Smiths Hollow.

The sudden murder of two teenage girls in the woods coincides with Lauren’s vision of a monster responsible for the brutal murders. But the real darkness of Smiths Hollow is revealed by Lauren’s grandmother, who is part of a lineage of witches who have always inhabited Smiths Hollow and, after an act of betrayal by then township, laid a curse upon the town. For the continued prosperity of the Smiths Hollow, each year a girl from the town is sacrificed to the monster dwelling in the Ghost Tree, and soon after, the everyone in the town forgets -including the daughter they sacrificed. But now the curse is unravelling, and so the dark truth about Smiths Hollow begins to be remembered.

Final Thoughts

The Ghost Tree is a dark and disturbing tale, where past treachery and betrayal has laid the seeds for the bloody future of the town. In this well-written and highly suspenseful novel, gothic horror comes to a new landscape skilfully combining elements of dark fiction and horror.

Conclusion

Highly recommended! The Ghost Tree is a fabulous and disturbing tale for anyone who enjoys dark fiction, gothic horror and dark folklore. A must-read!

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Bleak Precision

Publisher’s Description

Eight stories, an essay and artwork by two-time Bram Stoker Award-nominated author, Greg Chapman.
Table of contents:
Kakophony
Horror Fiction: A Bleak and Depressing Look at Truth
The Pest Controller’s Wife
Fascination
Scar Tissue
Unrequited
Mongrel
Hard Bargain
Feast of Feasts


Review

Bleak Precision, a collection of horror and dark fiction tales by Australian-based author and artist Greg Chapman.

There are many good stories in Bleak Precision but some of the highlights of Chapman’s work included “Kakophony”, a series of frantic conversations between an unidentified narrator and the ‘voices in her head’ and the chilling ending to silence the cacophony of screams and torment is all the more disturbing for its delivery; “Unrequieted”, a psychological exploration of the dark depths of lost love, and the disturbing lengths to replace an unrequited love with a memory; “Scar Tissue” was a skilful blend of shock horror and dark fiction that examined the need to belong, and to be normal but through the lens of a zombiesque theme; lastly, “Hard Bargain” a provoking tale of Asmael and the Mountain in Purgatory, where a deal is struck between an angel, demon and Asmael over the life deemed ‘wasteful’ by humanity.

Final Thoughts

Bleak Precision was a collection of diverse, well-written and dark tales that had the right balance between disturbing dark fiction and the shock of horror. I look forward to reading more.

Conclusion

A recommended must-read collection for those who love dark fiction, and thought-provoking horror.

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Whispers in the Dark

Publisher’s Description

Two decades into an eternal sentence in the impenetrable Void for daring to rebel against the might of the Empire, and Agent Ivory is ready to give up on life entirely, even if the unseen Warden of the prison won’t ever let him die.

But when a mysterious voice in the darkness visits him in his isolation, the prisoner is determined to see the sun on his face once again, even if the outside world is not what it once was…


Review

I recently read Whispers in the Dark by Australian author K.B. Elijah, a novella blending science-fiction and dark fiction.

The protagonist, Agent Ivory, has been imprisoned in an inescapable cell, his body held in stasis where he cannot die nor have hope of escape nor rescue. From these bleak beginnings, it is the promise of hope that proves the greatest torment to Agent Ivory. Despite the improbable, Agent Ivory escapes the prison known as the Void, aided by the whispering voice only he seems to hear. Guided on his escape, Ivory cannot shake his paranoid thoughts of pursuit, of hope dashed should he fail to escape and seek revenge for his imprisonment. It is this dark offering which the Void failed to crush, the promise of hope that will prove to be Agent Ivory’s greatest weapon or failure.

Final Thoughts

Whispers in the Dark was an intriguing psychological story combining elements of science fiction and dark fiction, exploring the strongest emotion in the darkness, is always hope.

Conclusion

A great novella from a new voice in Australasian speculative fiction. Recommended for those who enjoy a psychological read, literary tale where dark fiction blends into science fiction.

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Rosemary and Rue

Publisher’s Description:

The world of Faerie never disappeared; it merely went into hiding, continuing to exist parallel to our own. Secrecy is the key to Faerie’s survival—but no secret can be kept forever, and when the fae and mortal worlds collide, changelings are born.

Outsiders from birth, these half-human, half-fae children spend their lives fighting for the respect of their immortal relations. Or, in the case of October “Toby” Daye, rejecting it completely. After getting burned by both sides of her heritage, Toby has denied the fae world, retreating into a “normal” life. Unfortunately for her, Faerie has other ideas…

The murder of Countess Evening Winterrose, one of the secret regents of the San Francisco Bay Area, pulls Toby back into the fae world. Unable to resist Evening’s dying curse, Toby must resume her former position as knight errant to the Duke of Shadowed Hills and begin renewing old alliances that may prove her only hope of solving the mystery…before the curse catches up with her.


My Review:

I recently read Rosemary and Rue by US author Seanan McGuire, the first instalment in the October Daye urban fantasy series.

The protagonist, October Daye, is a private detective and also a Changeling, the daughter of a high Fae and mortal man. October, also known as Toby, considers herself happily married, has a young daughter and has so-far, kept both her husband and daughter from knowing she is not as mortal as she seems. But Toby is also a knight in a Fae court and, when her liege-lord requests her aid to recover his kidnapped wife and young daughter, she is duty-bound to obey. While on a stake-out, Toby follows her prime suspect, one of the most powerful of the Fae lords but is caught. In punishment, Toby is transformed into a koi and, unbeknown to anyone except the Fae lord who cursed her, is left in a fish pond.

After seven years, the curse breaks and Toby is returned to her human-like form. As her mortal husband never knew she was a Changeling nor the Fae worlds she inhabited, Toby’s sudden reappearance after her presumed death and inability to explain her whereabouts, sees her marriage dissolve and her now-teenage daughter no longer a trusting child. Estranged from her family, Toby begins her life anew, ignoring the Fae worlds, her Changeling roots and trying to eek out a menial existence in San Francisco.

But when Toby’s friend Evening, one of the high Fae, requests in her dying moments that Toby solve her murder, Toby finds herself drawn back into Fae intrigue, politics and power-plays. For Toby, the price of failure is her own death as Evening cursed her in those dying moments, compelling her to uncover Evening’s murderer.

Finding herself without much help to uncover Evening’s murderers, Toby is forced to make unlikely allies with other changelings she had long left behind, a deadly bargain with the Caith-Sidhe, the court of cat lords, and indebting herself to her Liege-Lord again. Soon, Toby uncovers the real reason Evening was murdered, a powerful and deadly secret.

Final Thoughts:

Rosemary and Rue is an intriguing beginning to an urban fantasy series that relies strongly on Irish folklore and, with this solid foundation of lore, provides a detailed world-building and fascinating characters.

My Conclusion?

A great read for anyone who enjoys urban fantasy, Irish folklore, provoking characters and solid world-building. Highly recommended!

events, Short Fiction, Writing

Death House Anthology Release


I am pleased to announce the release of horror anthology Death House published by Raven & Drake Publishing on 20 April , 2021. The anthology is inspired by the haunted houses theme, featuring my dark microfiction “Agnes House” inspired by true crime, horror elements and psychopathy.

If you are interested in purchasing a paperback, limited edition hardback or ebook copy of Death House, more details can be found here.

Recent Reads

The Crossing Places

From the Blurb:

“Dr Ruth Galloway is called in when a child’s bones are discovered near the site of a prehistoric henge on the north Norfolk salt marshes. Are they the remains of a local girl who disappeared ten years earlier – or are the bones much older?

DCI Harry Nelson refuses to give up the hunt for the missing girl. Since she vanished, someone has been sending him bizarre anonymous notes about ritual sacrifice, quoting Shakespeare and the Bible. He knows that Ruth’s expertise and experience could help him finally to put this case to rest. But when a second child goes missing, Ruth finds herself in danger from a killer who knows she’s getting ever closer to the truth…”

My Review:

The Crossing Places (Dr Ruth Galloway Mysteries, #1) by UK author Elly Griffiths is a crime thriller with a considerable difference. The protagonist is slightly awkward, overweight, nearing middle-aged female forensic archaeologist, Dr Ruth Galloway who’s primary role is teaching and researching in Archaeology in the new university of North Norfolk, United Kingdom. The discovery of a body ritually displayed on the remote salt marshes near where Ruth lives soon brings local police detective Harry Nelson into Ruth’s sphere of work and life and his desperate search for the body of a child missing ten years, the case he cannot forget nor forgive himself for not solving.

The following events involve a series of archaeological investigations into the ritualised burial and likely sacrifice of the young girl whose remains Ruth discovers are not recent but from an Iron Age civilisation that built hedge sites and other ritual structures in the North Norfolk area during the Iron Age. For detective Harry Nelson, Ruth’s academic excitement in the Iron Age burial only saddens and frustrates him in the callousness of human nature, that centuries before, young girls were being ritually killed on the salt marshes. It seems Ruth and Harry have little in common except an interest to discover the fate of the respective young girls, one more recent, another from the Iron Age. But events quickly escalate with the new discovery of the Iron Age burial linking to a series of antagonistic letters detective Nelson has received over the ten years from the suspected killer, which now begin again in earnest along with another child abduction. When another child burial is found, Harry Nelson recruits Ruth to excavate and to provide her expertise on ritual sacrifices and Iron Age culture near the salt marshes. It is the beginning of a partnership and a case that focuses on the importance of the ‘crossing places’ to Iron Age belief systems, the role of landscapes which are neither shore nor sea, sky nor land.

Final Thoughts:

The Crossing Places was an enjoyable crime mystery, the combination of unlikely but personable characters, the depth of research into archaeological techniques and academic institutions gave the plot a sense of reality. The detailed research into Iron Age belief systems of ‘crossing places’, the importance of these liminal landscapes within our natural landscapes of land and sea contributed to a fascinating read.

My Conclusion?

A highly-recommended read for anyone who enjoys ancient history, crime or mystery, quirky and complex characters and archaeology.