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a turtle’s eye view – chills by mary sangiovanni

disclaimer – i received a copy of this book via lyrical underground in exchange for an honest review.

there’s something very soothing about a snow storm – the fall of the snow, the blowing of the wind, the shine of the lights. it’s all so calming when you’re inside with a book and a blanket. unless you’re in colby, connecticut, during this odd spring snow storm. then it not only feels malevolent, it is actually capable of murder with a little help from the worshippers who are trying to invite a few brutally evil and ancient gods to colby.

chills wastes no time getting to the point. there are monsters, there is violence, and there is brutal death. mary sangiovanni describes all of this in almost loving detail and she leaves nowhere for readers to hide and almost no air for them to breathe. i enjoy this in your face writing style in horror novels occasionally, but in this case the dedication to the monsters and the mayhem comes at the expense of character development. i was really captivated by kathy ryan, the occult expert called in to assist on the case, and though there are some details about her background and her relationship with the colby detective assigned to the case, her character suffers from a lack of development as the focus stays on the literal hell making its home in colby.

chills is a fast read but not for the faint of heart. if you’re looking for in-depth character development, this isn’t your read but if you’re looking for solid horror, descriptive violence, and some great criminal procedure details you’re in the right place.

three out of four stars.


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a turtle’s eye view – mirror image by michael scott

disclaimer – i received a copy of this book via tor books in exchange for an honest review.

at seven feet tall and four feet across the mirror is already considered unusual. but size isn’t all that matters here because this mirror doesn’t just show your reflection, it feeds on your emotions, your life, your soul.

in some ways, mirror image reminded me of the 2013 movie oculus (ignore the description because it’s just wrong) but only in that the mirror is somehow responsible for a great deal of death and madness. michael scott has written some interesting characters and a plot that is actually two different stories combined into one, but the story isn’t really about the people, it’s about the overarching life of the mirror and how it gets people to help it fulfill its desires.

the difficulty i had with the book was the mingling of sex and graphic violence and the descriptions of sexual violence being committed against women. the most egregious description portrays a rape as turning into an experience that the victim not only responds to but becomes complicit in. although the sexual violence is not used solely as a plot point, and scott spends time trying to explain it as how the mirror functions, the story suffers because of its inclusion.

one out of five stars

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a turtle’s eye view – nightmares edited by ellen datlow

disclaimer – i received a copy of this book via tachyon publications in exchange for an honest review.

nightmares is a collection of 24 short stories but they’re not just any short stories. in this collection, editor ellen datlow has once again drawn together stories that not only complement each other but work together to make it clear to the reader that evil exists and sometimes it can’t be beaten.

normally, i review collections as a whole but this time there were a few stories that stood out, towering over the others and making it clear that they were not going to be dismissed when the ebook was turned off for the night.

closet dreams by lisa tuttle is desperately engaging despite the sparse details. tuttle maintains a visceral level of horror throughout, and still delivers a throat punch of an ending that is as emotionally devastating as it is shocking. if i were rating it alone it would definitely get five stars.

interstate love song (murder ballad no. 8) by caitlin r. kiernan is a bloody rampage on lonely highways but it’s full of love and unutterable sadness. it’s another five-star story.

the atlas of hell by nathan ballingrud had a feeling of familiarity that was extremely disconcerting. the malevolence in the story felt like it was leaking into my room and each page turn added to the oppressive feeling that something horrible was going to happen. even when i realized that i had read the story before, in fearful symmetries (also edited by datlow and i doubt that’s a coincidence!) that feeling of weight did not depart. this is another five-star story.

overall, this is a great collection. it’s a little uneven in some places but all the stories deliver.

four out of five stars

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a turtle’s eye view – dead souls by j. lincoln fenn

disclaimer – i received a copy of this book via gallery books in exchange for an honest review.

what if a man walked up to you for a chat and, in the course of it, told you that he was the devil? would you believe him? what if he offered you one wish in exchange for your soul? would you play along? t’s not like there’s any such thing as the devil, right? it’s not like wishes can really be granted, right? it’s not even like souls really exist. right?

in dead souls, by j. lincoln fenn, fiona quinn is getting drunk in a bar after seeing her boyfriend at the tail-end of a compromising situation. when a man comes up to buy her a drink, he introduces himself as scratch and makes her an offer: one wish in exchange for her soul and a favour to be collected later. fiona takes scratch up on his offer only to wake up and discover that the devil is real, she has taken the deal, and she is now a “dead soul” just waiting for scratch to call her favour in.

dead souls starts out great and just keeps going. fiona is an intriguing character with an interesting back story and completely relatable mistakes and bad habits. fenn takes the old premise of selling your soul to the devil and gives it new life with the idea that you don’t just get something, you owe something in return and your soul is the voucher.

fenn’s writing is fresh and dynamic and her characters, yes even scratch, are compelling. make sure your calendar is clear when you pick up this book because it’s going to suck you in. and, when you reach the end, you’re going to hope, as i did, that you’ll be hearing from fiona and scratch again. soon.

four out of five stars

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a turtle’s eye view – the ferryman institute by colin gigl

disclaimer – i received a copy of this book via gallery books in exchange for an honest review.

charlie dawson is a legend. in his time with the ferryman institute he’s garnered a stellar reputation for success and everyone looks up to him. he has three problems, though. first, charlie is slowly losing his mind and his will to live. second, he’s received a presidential assignment giving him a choice: be a ferryman or save the girl. the girl in question is alice spiegel, who is seconds away from committing suicide. third, inspector javrouche. an internal affairs officer, javrouche is determined to bring charlie down for subversive behaviour. hold on tight because charlie’s going to save the girl. even if it kills him.

i adored the ferryman institute. i took my time reading it because i couldn’t face the prospect of it ending but, as books have a habit of doing whether i like it or not, it ended anyway. colin gigl writes incredibly lyrical sentences that build into beautiful paragraphs that alternated between making me feel incredibly happy and mercilessly ripping my heart out. gigl’s description of alice’s depression is poignant and heartbreaking without being cliched or overwrought. the very simplicity with which it’s offered it what makes it so gripping. several times i found myself crying for charlie dawson and wondering if my heart would be able to stand reading any more. of course, i had to read more and it was so very good.

seriously, you HAVE to read this book. and i hope gigl writes more. soon.

five out of five stars

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a turtle’s eye view – little killers a-z: an alphabet of horror by howard odentz

disclaimer – i received a copy of this book via belle books/bell bridge books in exchange for an honest review.

i’ve said before that i’m a huge fan of short stories, especially scary short stories. i was excited about little killers a-z by howard odentz even though i’d never heard of the author before. it was a quick read but i did find that it felt a little repetitive at times. i don’t mean that the stories actually repeated, more that the tone and motif felt stale. sometimes it seems that there’s nothing new in horror, that everything’s already been written, and i felt that occasionally in little killers.

on the bright side, the stories that i did like i liked a lot and that was a saving grace for me. i hate reading stories that i don’t click with and i would have hated to add a collection of horror stories to the dreaded abandoned shelf. overall, i liked odentz’s writing and i’m thinking about adding another of his books to my reading list.

three out of five stars

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a turtle’s eye view – supernova by c.a. higgins

disclaimer – i received a copy of this book via random house books – ballantine del rey in exchange for an honest review.

supernova is the follow-up to author c.a. higginslightless. unfortunately, second doesn’t always mean better. the writing felt flat and two-dimensional and the attempt at building the relationship between althea and ananke felt overly dramatic. there were characters from the first novel that i still couldn’t find any empathy for and new (or greatly expanded) characters that i just plain didn’t like. i guess, in a way, that’s better because in the first book i didn’t even care enough about the story to dislike anyone (if that makes sense). readers definitely need to have a familiarity with lightless in order to understand supernova, this is not the kind of series one can just jump into anywhere.

two out of five stars