Review: Priestess by Justine Geoffrey

Priestess is available on Kindle

Amazon Description:

This collection brings together the first four BLACKSTONE Erotica books from Justine Geoffrey and Martian Migraine Press: RED MONOLITH FRENZY, GREEN FEVER DREAM, ‘Summonings: Anicka & Kamil’and ‘Summonings: Yvette’s Interview’ in the order in which the story occurs. Follow a novice Priestess of the Black Stone as she calls up prehistoric sex-gods in the mountains of Eastern Europe, gathers power and partners in the glitzy dungeons of London’s BDSM scene, and mates with monsters in subterranean chambers of lust and horror! Learn the backstory of her friends, lovers, and enemies! This volume also contains excerpts from Blackstone Book 3, YELLOW SIGN BOUND, and the sci-fi gonzo-erotica ‘Orgy in the Valley of the Lust Larvae’ PLUS a special essay from the author on the weird-erotica writing experience.

PRIESTESS (Blackstone Volume One): transgressive, bizarre sexuality, night-black humour, and cosmic horror! Open yourself to the perverted supernatural world of Justine G!

Ade’s Review:

“Leave your Lycans and vamps and sad succubi at home, Ladies. I’ve got no interest in that only-just-inhuman sphere of influence.” So says Justine Geoffrey in her essay “The Unbearable Strangeness of Being: Why I Write Weird Erotica”, and thank goodness for that because erotica is currently being crushed under a tidal wave of bland cookie-cutter formats, formats that writers like Justine Geoffrey confound with their bold refusal to chase the casual commuter market. You won’t find any Christian Grey’s in the pages of Priestess, but you might just find a Charles Dexter Ward, juiced up on a heady concoction of LSD and Viagra.

Apparently there is a lot of money in weird erotica. I haven’t seen actual statistics, but the theory is that if you corner the market in a particular kink, then you can secure plenty of sales offering a product readers simply cannot buy anywhere else. Sure, there are not many people that get off on fucking a fax machine, but there’s more than you think.

Justine Geoffrey is not one of those cynical authors trying to corner a market. This surreal blend of hyper-erotica and Lovecraftian-prose is expertly crafted, showing a true appreciation for the works she references and emulates. From a pure nuts-and-bolts angle, her descriptions have the linguistic diversity Lovecraft would have been proud of, keeping the sexual elements fresh and entertaining. There is a dreamlike freedom to Priestess, a freedom to indulge any whim or flight-of-fancy, a “Can I stick it there? Well I won’t know until I try!” philosophy that is thoroughly endearing.

So should you read Priestess? Well, yes you should, but don’t come crying to me if you are threatened or sickened by the contents, or (far more likely) aroused by something you never thought possible.

Review: The Blackheath Séance Parlour by Alan Williams

Available in Paperback and on Kindle

Amazon Description:

In 1842, two sisters drunkenly debate their future, their family chocolate business has failed and so they decide to open a seance parlour. The locals are shocked but soon their shop is crammed with people wanting to contact the dead. Despite their change in fortune, a rift forms between the sisters, as young sister Judy gets her novel published, finds a man and proves to be more capable of contacting spirits than Maggie. Spurred on by jealousy, Maggie tries harder and soon even the Queen is consulting her. The Church decides they must be stopped by any means possible.

Ade’s Review:

Okay, confession time. I requested a review copy of this book and the publisher sent me one. Not a big deal, but I suppose that generosity does generate some goodwill. Secondly, and here’s the biggie, I live in Blackheath. If I walk a few minutes from my flat I can be sat on a bench with the Hare and Billet pub in one direction and Ranger’s House in another. So for a book set in Blackheath this is an advantage, and I derived a great deal of pleasure not only from sharing mutual admiration with the author for this village of ours, but also being educated about its past.

The Blackheath Séance Parlour is on the surface a murder/ghost story set in Blackheath in the mid-1800’s, but as the story progresses the real focus of the narrative becomes the relationship between three women. Two of these are sisters (Maggie and Judy Cloak), each facing fading dreams and mounting regrets. Together they run a failing chocolate shop and share in the debts and worry incurred by the enterprise. Through desperation for something more, Judy Cloak hits upon an idea for a new shop: a séance parlour, and in setting up this establishment they enlist the third of their triumvirate, an aging medium, Nettie Walters.

Without spoiling too much, the séance parlour takes off and we chart the controversies and challenges that arise as the women have to contend with the church, a murder investigation, rising fame and rivalries within their own inner circle. Williams does not play coy, the ghosts are real and we are thrown into a world of spirits, visions and ectoplasm (indeed, in the Author Notes he expresses his own distaste for books that shoehorn in a logical reason for séances and mediums after convincing the reader otherwise for the majority of the tale). Dark stormy nights on the heath are vividly described, the era’s clash between faith, science and superstition convincingly evoked. But through all the fantasy elements it is the relationship between the Cloak sisters that keep the pages turning, especially as fortunes dramatically differentiate the two.

At times whilst reading The Blackheath Séance Parlour I felt like I was on a time travelling pub crawl of local establishments: the Hare and Billet, The Crown, The Princess of Wales, The Gypsy Moth, The Blackheath Tea Hut and others, all are visited and described with affection. Williams seems to have done his homework and Blackheath comes alive.

Alongside the main narrative a second story is told, a novel within a novel, written by Judy Cloak. It is a titillating gothic serialised tale (also set in Blackheath), somewhere between Frankenstein and Dracula, that works for us as a satire on the fiction of the time, but also as an insight into the desires and fears of Judy, its author. The story does influence the main narrative, but at times I wish the editor had been a little more ruthless in trimming these parts back, as I found myself impatient to return to the Cloaks and learning more of their adventures.

I grew up in Croydon (South-East London) and so any pride I’ve felt about my home-town was tongue-in-cheek pride about surviving it. Now that I am settled in Blackheath a strange feeling has overcome me: affection for my surroundings. I suppose I am still an outsider as far as true Blackheathens are concerned, but still, there is a big space in my heart for this village mysteriously shielded from the city around it. But any affection I have is dwarfed by the love of Blackheath described in this book and for that I heartily recommend it.

So is this review biased? Well, yes it probably is. I don’t know what someone living in rural Utah might make of it. At times I wondered if the book might benefit from a small map, or a description of the Heath’s relation to London, as these might be difficult to picture. The cover-art would sit well in the London Dungeons, but I feel perhaps a classier image of Blackheath village would have been more appropriate.

I recommend the Blackheath Séance Parlour for anyone wanting an enjoyable, well researched, historical fantasy novel, and certainly for anyone who’s ever been to this little village I call home.

NOTE: The Blackheath Séance Parlour is having a book launch at Greenwich Waterstones today (26/09) at 5-7pm.

Review: The Mysterious Island by Jules Verne

FREE on Amazon

Amazon Description:

The plot of this novel depicts a group of men who have become castaways stranded on an island in the Pacific during the American Civil War.

Ade’s Review:

NOTE: This book was published in the late 1800’s. I, however, read it in 2013. Due to cultural differences the book may not have been received as intended.

Here we have five civilised men stranded upon a desert island, but as soon as they arrive they act as a plague upon the paradise, slaughtering the indigenous wildlife and destroying the landscape, shaping it to their own end with no respect for the natural world. Not the slightest remorse is shown for the creatures whose lives they destroy; every new beast or bird encountered is met with the same response: “Can we eat it? How do we kill it?”

Oh what loathsome devils! On one excursion they return to find apes inhabiting their home. Rather than peacefully usher them away, the blood-thirsty gang slaughter the lot, taking one final orangutan prisoner to turn into a slave. Indeed, they callously mock the poor beast for its inability to understand the concept of remuneration for its troubles.

The brutality does not end there. Happening upon a large turtle on the beach, the men joyously turn it onto its back so it would die slowly in the sun. Upon finding whale bones, they freeze them curved in fat, to lure animals into eating and thus pierce their stomachs. Oh, what twisted degenerates they are!

So arrogant are these men in their claim to this land that when a ship comes to dock for a similar purpose (to restock food and water), the quintet attack them without mercy, killing every last one.

Over the course of the story it becomes clear that Cyrus Harding is a villain of the most devious kind. I found myself first rooting for the big cats, then the pirates and finally the volcano.

Upon reaching the outcome, I was very disappointed.

Mariner Redesign Finalised

And the final version is….

The Mariner, Kindle Edition

Bravo, and huge thanks to artist Christopher Hayes!

Blogger, writer and editor C.W.Rhodes recently reviewed The Mariner for his blog. Below is an except:

“I haven’t felt so many wonderfully conflicting emotions while reading a book in a long time. This story is the wildest of rides – fast paced, energetic, unafraid, relentless, exhilarating, disturbing, and smart. I absolutely loved it. The plot was magnificent and revealed its points in such a way that was always exciting, always changing, always moving forward into some new territory. There are so many interesting ideas thrown into it that not only kept me entertained, but intellectually interested in what was being said.”

To read more, check out the full review here.

Review: Mosquitoes by Marc R. Soto

Mosquitoes by Marc R Soto is available now through Amazon

Amazon Description:

David is a normal ten-year-old boy who lives in the bosom of a happy family in a quiet town by the marshes, until some mysterious nightly bites lead him to undergo changes. All of a sudden, he knows things he shouldn’t, horrible things: his father dreams of going to bed with the intern and the husband of his teacher Mercedes is cheating on her. Mercedes is herself hiding a terrible secret from her past and is prepared to do something hideous to protect her future… And suddenly, along with awareness comes hunger. And thirst. An irresistible thirst…

Ade’s Review:

I am rather conflicted about this novella. I read it in one sitting, eagerly devouring every page, testament to the genuinely creepy concept that Soto explored. However, as the story entered its final stages I felt myself becoming increasingly disappointed with the direction the author chose to take us in, twisting away from the subtle into well-trod cliché.

Mosquitoes is a vampire story (yup, another one) but with a nauseating twist: the bloodsucker is an actual bloodsucker – a mosquito that feeds nightly upon a young boy and bestows nefarious powers upon him. Veering away from the mystical vamp of common lore to this everyday insect (albeit one with supernatural qualities) suddenly transforms the campy nosferatu into a much more real and unsettling presence. ‘Mosquitoes’ taps into the fear we all hold of bodily intrusion by the natural world, making the bloodsucking scenes so much more uncomfortable than the borderline erotic ones that dominate contemporary literature.

As David’s mind becomes transformed by the presence I found myself being reminded of Stephen King’s Pet Sematary (IMO the best horror story ever told), but not so closely as to feel that this was anything other than a comparison in my own mind. Ultimately, I wanted David’s powers explored further as these were a genuine source of horror in the tale.

Unfortunately, after these fresh and gripping elements had only just been introduced, the story suddenly becomes a typical one of evil vampire vs courageous heroine. The change of tone into cliché brought up glaring plot weaknesses; for example, the villainous entity was suddenly affected by a cross, even though there had never been the slightest hint of a Christian link to the tale. Perhaps these weaknesses wouldn’t have seemed so troubling if the book had been longer and the concepts more fleshed out.

Verdict:

Mosquitoes is a very promising novella that doesn’t quite deliver. The genuinely creepy concept underpinning the majority of the book makes it worth reading, but I hope the author returns to the story someday to flesh it out further. Ultimately I wanted to read more, which of all the problems a narrative can have is the least troubling.

Mosquitoes is available here!

Review: Bleed by Ed Kurtz

Bleed by Ed Kurtz is available through Amazon!

Amazon Description:

When Walt Blackmore moves into an old gable front house on the outskirts of a small town, things are really looking up for him; he has an adoring girlfriend to whom he plans to propose, a new job teaching English at the local high school, and an altogether bright future. His outlook and destiny are irreparably changed, however, when an unusual dark red spot appears on the ceiling in the hallway. Bit by bit, the spot grows, first into a dripping blood stain and eventually into a grotesque, muttering creature.

As the creature grows, Walt finds himself more and more interested in fostering its well-being. At first he only feeds it stray animals so that the blood-hungry monster can survive, but this soon fails to satisfy the creature’s ghastly needs. It is gradually becoming human again, and for that to happen it requires human blood and human flesh. And once Walt has crossed the line from curiosity to murder, there is no going back…

Ade’s Review:

Okay, let’s get this out the way first – it’s a bit like Hellraiser! Right, now we can move on, because to become bogged down in comparisons would do this enjoyable quick-paced romp through a hellish abattoir a terrible disservice.

Bleed is classic horror tale in the sense that it is about a small group of characters in a remote setting, trying to deal with a peculiar scenario in which they should really seek professional help. Of course, this is not what they do, and the story descends into bloody mayhem. As a reader, struggling against it will collapse the whole damn lot on top of you like so much unbelievable mush, but if you go with the flow you’ll find moments of gruesome hilarity. I loved the tea-party-like dismissal of government help when the lead character discovers a monster growing out of his ceiling!

What is strongest in Ed Kurtz’ novel is the writing. Despite the constant butchering the descriptions never feel tired and we are constantly repulsed by the graphic prose. I was kept guessing about certain elements of the plot right until the end, quite an achievement given the relatively straight-forward story. Alas, I feel the narrative goes on a little too long for the concept and could do with being trimmed by a couple of killings.

Verdict:

Bleed is a piece of visceral entertainment, much like an 80’s splatter movie. Kurtz doesn’t overburden the story; he takes a concept and exploits it to its full potential, showing surprising restraint for the genre. If you want some gore with a creative flair, you can’t go wrong with this.

Bleed is available through Amazon here

Visit Ed Kurtz’ blog

Review: Bottled Abyss by Benjamin Kane Ethridge

Bottled Abyss is Available Through Amazon

Amazon Description:

YOU’VE TAKEN PAYMENT FOR A DEATH THAT DOESN’T BELONG TO YOU.

WHAT WERE THREE ARE NOW ONE, AND I AM FURY…

Herman and Janet Erikson are going through a crisis of grief and suffering after losing their daughter in a hit and run. They’ve given up on each other, they’ve given up on themselves. They are living day by day. One afternoon, to make a horrible situation worse, their dog goes missing in the coyote-infested badlands behind their property. Herman, resolved in preventing another tragedy, goes to find the dog, completely unaware he’s on a hike to the River Styx, which according to Greek myth was the border between the Living World and the world of the Dead.

Long ago the gods died and the River dried up, but a bottle containing its waters still remains in the badlands. What Herman discovers about the dark power contained in those waters will change his life forever…

Ade’s Review:

The terrible price of working miracles is one of my favourite horror themes and one that Benjamin Kane Ethridge explores to gruesome effect. Bottled Abyss mixes Barker-esque blood baths with ancient mythology to create a story that sprints along checking off genres as it goes. What begins as an eerie exploration of a traumatised relationship, twists into a dark thriller and then finally contorts itself into grand fantasy.

This mix of the mythic and mundane is at its most effective in the first section of the story, where the characters are struggling to comprehend their situation. As the narrative progresses we see continual perspective shifts that allow a wider comprehension of the story, but also detract from our emotional attachment.

In the final genre shift we explore the themes and mythology of the piece in greater depth, thus gaining a greater understanding of the concept Ethridge intended. This was the most gripping and stimulating section, but somewhere along the way I felt the characters had been left behind. So much dehumanisation had taken place, there wasn’t much left to root for.

Verdict:

Bottled Abyss drags by the balls whilst dangling lights before the eyes. At its heart this is a gory horror, but the fantastical twist helps the tale slide down easy.

Bottled Abyss is available on Amazon.

Review: Hounds of Autumn by Heather Blackwood

Hounds of Autumn by Heather Blackwood

Amazon Description:

They say that the moor has eyes.

It is 1890, and the windswept moors hold dark secrets. Chloe Sullivan is an amateur inventor whose holiday takes a dark turn when her friend and colleague, one of the few female mechanical experts in the British Empire, is murdered.

A black mechanical hound roams the moors, but could it have killed a woman? And what secrets are concealed within the dark family manor?

Accompanied by her naturalist husband and clockwork cat, Chloe is determined to see her friend’s killer found.

But some secrets have a terrible cost.

Ade’s Review

A common pit-trap of steampunk literature is to go too grand too quick. What begins as a focused self-contained story suddenly explodes into epic battles and world changing plots. Thankfully this is not the case with Heather Blackwood’s “Hounds of Autumn”, a smart and engrossing contribution to the genre that is both engaging and at times moving.

The narrative plays out as a good old murder mystery in a country house, but with a steampunk spin on the events. The clockwork and steam ingredients are used delicately, sprinkled here and there to improve the flavour of the piece, rather than being the main dish in itself. The focus here is very much on the characters and the sinister plot that unravels with increasing momentum.

The only minor complaint I might have is that the story comes together a little too quickly and neatly in the final chapters, but this is a staple of murder mysterious and seems to be more of a flaw in the genre than the writing itself.

Verdict

I look forward to more steampunk from Heather Blackwood in the future. The world she creates is a pleasing and intriguing one that never loses sight of what it set out to achieve.

Hounds of Autumn is available on kindle for £1.95.

Visit Heather Blackwood’s website

Review: Jimmy by William Malmborg

Jimmy by William Malmborg available at Amazon

Amazon Description:
High school can be a difficult time in a young person’s life, especially toward the end where one has to start making the sudden transition into adulthood. For Jimmy Hawthorn it is even worse. Not only does he need to successfully make that transition, he has to do it while hiding the fact that he is the one responsible for the disappearances of two fellow high school girls, both of whom are prisoners in a secret underground fallout shelter he discovered behind an abandoned house on the outskirts of town.

Ade’s Review:
In “Jimmy” Malmborg taps into the torture porn zeitgeist to give us an exploration of a naïve and vulnerable mind that unfortunately takes the leap into acting upon a taboo fetish. Jimmy, the story’s protagonist/villain, is a young man who decides to kidnap a fellow student so to indulge his sadistic sexual fantasies. As the story develops we see him resort to greater extremes to cover his tracks whilst still being held in the grip of his urges.

This book is at its strongest when the story is told through the eyes of Jimmy, allowing us to understand his own confusion and the inner turmoil that his actions have wrought. We also see events from the perspective of various other school-mates, but it is when we’re put back into the head of the bewildered kidnapper that the reader’s interest is roused.

Verdict:
Fans of Jack Ketchum will find the content familiar and perhaps pleasing. Jimmy is a book that is direct and to the point; it offers us an insight into a troubled adolescent mind, but little more. That is not necessarily a bad thing. It does exactly what it says on the tin.

Jimmy is available now at Amazon for £1.99

Visit William Malborg’s site

Review: Development Hell by Mick Garris

Amazon Description:

Development Hell by Mick Garris – Available on Amazon!

Hollywood, California: the Bermuda Triangle of art, sex, and commerce. The beautiful people make their daily deals with the devil on the sun-dappled patio at the Ivy, not in a fiery underground cavern. Nobodies become somebodies in the blink of an eye, but the flash of heady success can be fleeting. The rocket that shoots you into the atmosphere can be carrying weapons of mass destruction that can send you just as quickly and efficiently to Hell.

And back to Heaven again.

Development Hell is a wicked Hollywood satire, disguised as an extreme erotic horror novel. It is told knowingly from an inside perspective, tracking the career trajectory of a young film school hotshot into the annals of the Big Studio.

This arrogant young director leads us through his own set of unique experiences, starting with his explosive and disastrous first Hollywood movie; his discovery of a mutant baby in the arms of a Mexican news dealer in downtown Los Angeles that will be his ticket back to the top of the heap; into the arms of a re-animated glamorous star who died in the 1930s; and body-hopping through the most glamorous sheaths of human flesh on the planet.

It is a side of Hollywood rarely seen from beneath its unvarnished, Botox-free, crinkling, wrinkling flesh, and features a supporting cast of characters you will surely recognize.

Development Hell welcomes you into a behind-the-scenes peek unlike any other you have witnessed before.

Ade’s Review:

When I was a youngster I watched Stephen King’s The Stand on television. I remember it was during the great mad cow disease scare and due to the combination of that apocalyptic film and the hysterical news coverage I got it into my head that we’d soon all be dropping like flies and I’d have to smother my family with pillows before the end.

Fortunately this never actually happened, but I was left with a love for that adaptation of The Stand, which years later I learned was directed by Mick Garris. I didn’t seek out Development Hell with Garris in mind; rather it became a very happy coincidence that the director who enthralled me in childhood would write a book I would so thoroughly enjoy almost two decades later.

Development Hell is a long crawl through the shit-pipes of Hollywood. Our protagonist (the archetype of Hollywood hack: huge ego and zero talent) rises and falls over and over like waves on a turbulent sea, forever given chances and each time blowing them in spectacular fashion. And yet, as despicable as the lead character is, the world as seen through his eyes remains an honest one, a true depiction of the shallow excesses of the industry.

I was drawn to Development Hell after reading the first chapter in a short stories splatterpunk compilation and although the novel never reaches the same heights as that first gruesome tale, the narrative is interesting, witty and even touching at times. You can never quite bring yourself to root for the main character, although you do identify with him, a peculiar mix that captures his own self-loathing perfectly.

I would recommend this book to anyone who knows enough about the film industry to appreciate the satire, even those with weak stomachs who would be put off by the (brilliant) opening section. There is much more to this book than graphic sex and nauseating descriptions: brutal self-deprecating hilarious honesty.

Verdict:

A true master of the splatterpunk genre: someone who sees disgusting content as a means to an end, rather than the end in itself.

Development Hell by Mick Garris is available here for £1.99. A bargain!