Char's Horror Corner

 Welcome to my Corner! I specialize in Dark Fiction reviews including Horror, Dark Fantasy, Splatterpunk, Horror of the 70's & 80's, and Graphic Novels. I also read and review classics, true crime, thrillers and audio books of all genres except Romance.



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#Fridayreads 5.8.2020


Snakes and Ladders Post the 7th (& maybe last?)

No one knows what's going to happen here at Booklikes, and I did get to move today, so I thought I'd post an update to my slow, slow, slow progress with Snakes and Ladders.


I finished Kathe Koja's THE CIPHER and it fit the bill for space 59:

59. Was published more than 10 years ago


You rolled 2 dice:

3 3

Timestamp: 2020-05-05 17:17:32 UTC


Which brings me to a SNAKE and now I'm on space 52:


Has a tree or flower on the cover.


 I'm starting Ethan Frome and there are trees on the cover.  And it's short! 


Ethan Frome - Edith Wharton 


 I finished Ethan Frome today, so 

I rolled 2 dice:


6 4

Timestamp: 2020-05-07 16:51:21 UTC


62. Cover is more than 50% green


I'll have to see what I have coming up next.


ETHAN FROME by Edith Wharton, narrated by Christopher Lane

Ethan Frome - Edith Wharton

I'm not sure why I thought this would be a pleasant, happy story. It is Edith Wharton after all!


I've loved her work since I first read The House of Mirth and she lived a good portion of her time in Massachusetts, which is my home state. When I saw I could listen to the audio free through Prime, I downloaded it and here I am.


Written in the early 1900's, the story takes place in the fictional town of Starkfield. It's one of the few tales from Wharton that does not take place in a location of high society. It's the story of a simple man, whose life plans change so that he can care for his ailing father. Rather impulsively, he marries a sickly woman to avoid being alone after his father passes. A few years later his wife's young cousin comes to stay and their lives will change forever.


I never expected this tale to go in the way it did. It was sad and tragic for everyone involved. It's amazing to me that Wharton was capable of packing so much into a relatively short story. Perhaps it is dated in regards to its setting, but the emotions and the characters involved are still perfectly relatable in today's day and age.


I have a volume of Wharton's ghost stories that I hope to read soon. In the meantime, I will be thinking of the cold town of Starkfield and Ethan's fate.

THE CIPHER by Kathe Koja, narrated by Joshua Saxon

The Cipher - Kathe Koja

THE CIPHER! I don't even know what to say.


I've only recently joined the church of Koja. It may not be as big as some, Stephen King's say, but there are joys to be found in smaller congregations.


This is the story of Nakota and Nicholas who one day found a black hole, named it the funhole, and changed their lives forever. They stuck different things into the hole, (getting uncomfortable yet?), including bugs, a mouse, and then a hand. What happened to these items when they were thrust inside? You'll have to read this to find out!


I absolutely adore Ms. Koja's prose, and Joshua Saxon the narrator brought it home with flare. This must not have been an easy performance due to the style of the aforementioned prose-especially in the second half of the book because it's a stream-of-consciousness narrative. His voicing was phenomenal.


I'm a bit irritated with myself because the few clips I made of the audio that highlighted the prose apparently did not save. There were short, staccato-like descriptions that...stabbed at my heart. Beautiful, honest and evocative words that my brain immediately transferred to a visual-like a direct injection. For instance "...the flat was full of drizzly day." 7 words that draw a perfect scene. Brief, staccato, BAM: there's the picture-full and complete.


I could go on and on about this prose but I'll leave it at what I've written. Kathe Koja's writing probably isn't for everyone; the reviews seem pretty split on Goodreads. For me, however, I feel like I have been missing out out an author that is perfect for my dark and black heart. I'm on a mission to read everything she's written. I'm a Koja missionary, baby!


My highest recommendation!


*I received the audio-book from Audiobook Boom! and the narrator, in exchange for my honest feedback. This is it!*

#FridayReads 5.1.20


Snakes & Ladders: Post the Sixth

It seems like so many of you are done already! 

I'm plugging along:


I finished  

Dark Celebrations - Calvin Demmer 


which has NOT been on my TBR for 2 years, so I rolled one die:


For whatever reason I can't seem to copy my dice roll here, but I rolled a three.


49. Recommended by a friend


I’ll start a new collection recommended by several friends: 


DEAD OF WINTER by Kealan Patrick Burke. 

Dead of Winter - Kealan Patrick Burke 


This book fit the bill, so I rolled two die:

You rolled 2 dice:

6 4

Timestamp: 2020-04-30 14:48:06 UTC


Which brings me to: 

59. Was published more than 10 years ago



I started listening to THE CIPHER by Kathe Koja.

DEAD OF WINTER by Kealan Patrick Burke

Dead of Winter - Kealan Patrick Burke

The weather here in the northeast right now is making it feel like we're still in the dead of winter. Going through the stack of books in my TBR, this title stood out like a sore thumb and here we are.


This collection centers around winter horror. Those short days when, after the snow has fallen, it's eerily quiet...sound has been dampened, and there's an illuminating glow from that snow after the sun goes down. Just enough of a glow to make shadows where there were none before. But, I ramble.


All of these stories were enjoyable but I especially loved DOOMSDAY FATHER CHRISTMAS. (To be honest, I really can't stand Christmas, so I agreed with Santa's feelings about it. Well, mostly.)


VISITATION RIGHTS was another special story that might not have worked in the hands of a lesser author.


Make no mistake, this book is dark. Grief and guilt are Kealan Patrick Burke's forte, he writes about them like no one else. These emotions are woven into his words, but the reader doesn't always know it at the time. It's when the story is over that it hits you like a freight train, or a bullet between the eyes.


Thankfully, I have a few of Mr. Burke's other books in my to be read stack. I am rationing them because I don't want to run out. It's great to have an author you know you can count on for entertaining stories.




You can get your copy here: DEAD OF WINTER


*I bought this book with my hard earned cash.*

BROKEN by Don Winslow, narrated by Ray Porter & Kaleo Griffith

Broken - Don Winslow,  Narrated by Kaleo Griffith, Ray Porter

Don Winslow is beyond brilliant as far as crime writing is concerned!


BROKEN: SIX SHORT NOVELS, as the title suggests is 6 novellas, all of them excellent. The only one that didn't quite fill the bill for me was the Hawaiian one, but that's most likely because I haven't read the original book in which these characters were featured, (SAVAGES). Not yet, anyway.


I'm not going to go blow by blow with each story, but I have to give the final tale, THE LAST RIDE, a special mention because my heart is still recovering from its impact. Here, Mr. Winslow's politics are more involved than usual. In my case that was perfectly fine, because they're in line with my own. Politics aside though, I think most people can agree that children should not be kept in cages. Cal, a border patrol officer in Texas, doesn't think it's right either and he does something about it. THE LAST RIDE had a western feel to it and I'll say it again, it broke my freaking heart. I think my husband heard it break from across the room because he was asking me if I was okay.


I still have a backlog of Winslow books to catch up on, and those are something I very much look forward to during these uncertain times.


My highest recommendation!


*I bought this audio book with my hard earned cash. *


Devolution: A Firsthand Account of the Rainier Sasquatch Massacre - Max Brooks

One word: SASQUATCH. I'm in!!


When a small group of environmentally conscious folk move into a "smart-community" (named Greenloop), in the Pacific northwest, everything seems to be just perfect. They are off the grid, groceries are flown in via drone, and they are self sufficient...until nearby Mount Rainier erupts. All of a sudden it becomes painfully clear that they are not capable of surviving very long without internet access, (can't order up those grocery drones now), and with the roads wiped out by lahars, there's no escape. Then, they start noticing noises from the woods and as all the local wildlife begins to run, they run into something deadly. Will our plucky group escape from Greenloop with their lives? Or will they stay and try to defend the lives they've built? You'll have to read this to find out!


The after-effects of a lahar:


I ended up loving characters that I nearly hated at first. Katie? I'm looking at you, girl! As the tale continues we learn more about each of the people living at Greenloop. Many of the important things about them aren't disclosed until much later in the book. My Google-foo was strong though and I discovered a lot of those particulars early on and that gave more depth to the tale. This entire group of people changed throughout, some in good ways, others not so much.


I thought that for a bigfoot story this tale was mostly realistic, though there were portions where I had a hard time suspending my disbelief. I cant say more about that without spoilers, but let's face it. This is a story about sasquatches, there's only so much realism there can be. And even though we're talking about somewhat of a creature feature here, the real focus is on the characters and not the cryptids. In that respect, it's not a creature feature at all, it's about the people.


DEVOLUTION is a quick read, fast paced and a lot of fun. There were gory scenes, lots of action and unexpected events popping up all over the place. It kept my attention, kept the pages turning and took my mind off this pandemic for a while. For these reasons I recommend it!


Available everywhere June 16th, but you can pre-order here: DEVOLUTION


*Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for the e-ARC of this book in exchange for my honest feedback. This is it!*


Dark Celebrations - Calvin Demmer


Having been totally knocked out by Demmer's THE SEA WAS A FAIR MASTER, (it was my favorite collection of 2019), I jumped at the chance to read his latest, DARK CELEBRATIONS. I don't regret it for an instant!


In this volume, which tells tales of celebrations and/or holidays from around the world, I found a wide variety on offer, and most of them worked well for me. My favorites were:


THREE DEAD MEN captivated me because it went nowhere near where I thought it was going. Think Kill Bill with mummies. That's right...mummies!


SPRING OUTBREAK was another tale that ran in the opposite from my preconceived notions. Picture spring break with zombies. That's right...zombies!


PROM SCREAMS had me thinking the main character was a real jerk and that he should just own up to what happened. I also found myself thinking about Charlene ,(Charlie), McGee and what could have happened to her later in life. (If you don't know who she is, look her up!) This story lead to so many different thoughts, I have to leave it there. I dug this one a lot!


UNIDENTIFIED FATHERLY OBJECT had cool ties to the earlier stories and that I enjoyed. It was a bit out there, (I WANT TO BELIEVE), just as the title suggests.


INDEPENDENCE DENIED: I was captivated because of its Lovecraftian feel. In the times we're in now, I wouldn't be surprised at all if natural disasters started to surge. It seems like that would be a perfect fit for the apocalyptic-feeling with which COVID19 has blanketed us. At the same time, this tale was entertaining enough to make me forget about that for a while and I'm thankful to Mr. Demmer for the brief escape.


The only reservation I had with this collection is that the first few stories didn't pique my interest as much as the later ones did. That could be because, admittedly, my expectations were high. It all worked out though, as for me, the stories got better and better until the phenomenal last act of INDEPENDENCE DENIED.


Once again Calvin Demmer wows us with a set of tales that are thoughtful, dark, sometimes funny, sometimes gory, and sometimes homages to H.P. himself. Once again, I found myself enthralled, most especially in the later stories, and I was happy to turn myself over to be thoroughly entertained.




Get your copy here: DARK CELEBRATIONS


*Thank you to Calvin Demmer for the paperback in exchange for my honest feedback. This is it.* (less)

#FridayReads 4.24.2020

Devolution: A Firsthand Account of the Rainier Sasquatch Massacre - Max Brooks Dark Celebrations - Calvin Demmer Broken - Don Winslow,  Narrated by Kaleo Griffith, Ray Porter


Reading progress update: I've read 6% and

Devolution: A Firsthand Account of the Rainier Sasquatch Massacre - Max Brooks

I already know I’m going to love this. Just as I knew with Grady Hendrix’s latest. Brooks is the author of World War Z and I loved that too. I am so glad for these distractions from the world right now. 

Ramsey Campbell LIVE!!!!

The Wise Friend - Ramsey Campbell Nazareth Hill - Ramsey Campbell The Hungry Moon - Ramsey Campbell Ancient Images - Ramsey Campbell Incarnate - Ramsey Campbell Dark Feasts: The World Of Ramsey Campbell - Ramsey Campbell The Doll Who Ate His Mother - Ramsey Campbell The Grin of the Dark - Ramsey Campbell The Darkest Part of the Woods - Ramsey Campbell Thirteen Days by Sunset Beach (Fiction Without Frontiers) - Ramsey Campbell

Are you a fan of Ramsey Campbell?


He's the winner of the Bram Stoker Award, several British Fantasy Awards, 

The Grand Master Award at the World Horror Convention in 1999,

and the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Horror Writer's Association in 1999, 

among many, many others.


If you want a chance to speak with him, just Tweet #AskRamsey and pop onto Facebook Thursday to see if he answers!



(Please note this time is in GMT, which is 5 hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time

here in the US)




Snakes and Ladders Post the 5th


I finished The Wise Friend - Ramsey Campbell  for 

38. Newest release by a favorite author.


I get to roll two this time!


You rolled 2 dice:

5 3

Timestamp: 2020-04-20 16:48:41 UTC


Which brings me to Space 46:


46. A book that has been on your tbr for more than two years.


Since I'm mostly reading ARCS right now, looks like my next roll will only be one die.




THE WISE FRIEND by Ramsey Campbell

The Wise Friend - Ramsey Campbell


THE WISE FRIEND seems like a nice little story at first, hardly horrific at all. Until it IS!


Patrick loses his artistic aunt Thelma under abnormal circumstances. Some time later, he and his son start looking into her artistic history and her death, after discovering her journal. They begin out of curiosity- because they wanted to see in person the landscapes she painted, (each of which features a shadowy person), to see if they shed any light on her death. They meet a young woman named Bella during one of their trips, and before they know it, she becomes, (almost), a part of the family. Then Patrick begins to notice things about her, - her reluctance to share her address, for one- and soon enough, the "investigation" becomes all about Bella. At least it does to Patrick, which alienates him from his son and the rest of his family. Is Patrick right about Bella? Is something wrong with her? How was Thelma's death involved? You'll have to read this to find out!


I very much enjoyed this, (for the most part), quiet horror story. I love tales where the characters become different people than what they were at the beginning. The family dynamics here were rough, but let's face it-a LOT of family dynamics are rough, so that was realistic to me. I think they acted in ways that regular people would.


I loved the language and the rather slow pace, though I did think it slowed a bit TOO much in the middle portions, due to some repetitious family matters. However, it picked back up again in the last third, featuring some quite scary scenes, and from there we raced to the finish. (I did find the denouement a little predictable. For the slight slowing of the pace and my ability to correctly guess most of the ending, I deducted one star.)


I noticed a few reviews mentioning that the language was old fashioned or too "English", but to be honest, I didn't notice that at all. There were lush descriptions of scenery and landscapes, but I felt they contributed to the overall feel of the book, while allowing me to perfectly picture the surroundings and what was happening.


Ramsey Campbell is an award winning author and it's clear from his prose why. I thoroughly enjoyed immersing myself in this story over the weekend and I read the last third in one shot, yesterday afternoon. I caught my breath and then said, Bravo!




Available Thursday, but you can pre-order here: THE WISE FRIEND


*Thanks to Flame Tree Press for the paperback ARC of this novel in exchange for my honest feedback. This is it!*

#FridayReads 4.17.2020

The Wise Friend - Ramsey Campbell Dark Celebrations - Calvin Demmer Broken - Don Winslow,  Narrated by Kaleo Griffith, Ray Porter


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