Book Review: The Spirits of Six Minstrel Run by Matthew S Cox

 

Here’s my slot on The Spirits of Six Minstrel Run Blackthorn Book Tour.

 

About The Spirits of Six Minstrel Run

A move to the small town of Spring Falls, New York, is the perfect cure for Mia Gartner’s horrid commute. However, her new home isn’t quite empty.

She adored working in fine art restoration, but a two-hour ride each way got old fast. When her husband found a house for sale at a suspiciously low price, they jumped at it. Mia expected chemical contamination, a fixer-upper, or termites, so when the problem turned out to be persistent rumors of haunting, she set aside her worries. Adam hoped the place would propel his parapsychology hobby into a career.

Upon first sight, the innocuous suburban house filled Mia with dread. Adam had long maintained she had a psychic gift, but if she believed him, that would mean something terrible and dark once happened there.

Soon after their arrival, unexplained events prove the rumors are more than wild stories. A childlike spirit attaches itself to Mia, seeming harmless and so very lonely.

Alas, she fears the ghost may not be as innocent as it seems.

 

My Thoughts

This straight ahead haunted house novel opens with Adam and Mia heading to their new home on Minstrel Run. Adam is an academic taking up a new posting at Syracuse in the psychology faculty. Mia is a painting restorer with a spooky past. Adam has a special interest in the paranormal and believes Mia has special psychic abilities she’s in denial of. He knows Six Minstrel Run is haunted and buys the house no one else wants as a kind of twisted experiment. He is as keen as mustard. Mia is, from the very first moment, terrified, even as she battles with her fear and summons enough courage to get on with the normal routines of domestic life. Yet even before she crosses the threshold and enters the house, she is consumed by dread. It is Mia’s terror that permeates the narrative and makes this novel utterly convincing and really very spooky. Throw in a local clergyman who comes knocking on their door offering his assistance and protection from the truly evil spirits lurking in their new home and you have the perfect set up.

I enjoyed the steady plotting, the twist, and the unfolding of the characters, their interesting lives, thoughts and motives, the plethora of scary scenes rising in intensity and escalating to a heart-pounding climax. Mia is a strong female lead, intelligent, resilient, courageous. The narrative has a strong forward drive, not overly weighed down by back story and exposition, the reader given just enough explanatory detail to provide context and setting. In all, The Spirits of Six Minstrel Run is a well written, traditional supernatural horror novel for those who want to be truly terrified. Not to be read alone in the dark in a big old house with creaky doors and attics and cellars. Cox has penned a classic.

About the Author

Originally from South Amboy NJ, Matthew has been creating science fiction and fantasy worlds for most of his reasoning life. Since 1996, he has developed the “Divergent Fates” world in which Division Zero, Virtual Immortality, The Awakened Series, The Harmony Paradox, the Prophet of the Badlands series, and the Daughter of Mars series take place.

His books span adult, young-adult, and middle-grade fiction in multiple genres, predominantly science fiction, cyberpunk, post-apocalyptic, and fantasy.

Matthew is an avid gamer, a recovered WoW addict, developer of two custom tabletop RPG systems, and a fan of anime, British humour, and intellectual science fiction that questions the nature of humanity, reality, life, and what might happen after it.

He is also fond of cats, presently living with two: Loki and Dorian.

Links:

The Spirits of Six Minstrel Runhttps://www.amazon.com/dp/B07MY8GDHC

Twitter: @Mscox_Fiction / https://twitter.com/mscox_fiction

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MatthewSCoxAuthor

Amazon author page: https://www.amazon.com/author/mscox

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/matthewcox10420/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7712730.Matthew_S_Cox

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/mscox.author/

 

Isobel Blackthorn is the author of a Canary Islands Mystery series, including A Matter of LatitudeClarissa’s Warning and A Prison in the SunThe Drago Tree serves as a prequel. Find her author page and easy access to her writing here author.to/IsobelBlackthorn

Blackthorn Book Tours Review: Rose by Rami Ungar

 

Rose Taggert awakens in a greenhouse with no clear memory of the past two years and, to her horror, finds her body transformed into an unrecognizable form.

Paris Kuyper has convinced Rose that they are lovers and as Paris could not bear for her to die, he has used an ancient and dark magic to save her from certain death.

But the dark magic Paris has used comes at a price. A price which a terrible demon is determined to extract from Rose.

My Thoughts

At first Rose seems like the sort of light horror novel that will also appeal to fans of YA. Very fast, punchy writing, the narrative action packed and filled with the angsts and worries and conflicts typical of those in their late teens. The story opens with sociology graduate Rose Taggart, who awakes to find herself lying on a table in a greenhouse and realises she has partial amnesia. In a few short paragraphs the horror of her new circumstances unravels as she finds she has been the subject of a spell from ‘The Forest God’s Record’, a grimoire that fell into the hands of her apparent boyfriend Paris. A playful wit vibrates behind the words, Ungar taunting his readers with the absurd, the ridiculous, Rose a hat tip to Kafka’s Metamorphosis. Instead of finding herself transformed into an insect, Rose is part plant, a rose no less. Somehow Ungar renders Rose’s metaphysical calamity plausible.

The playful wit soon gives way to a descent into the ominous and the spooky, Rose’s situation unraveling, the lens pulled back bit by bit, the suspense building and building, culminating in an unexpected ending. Rose contains good characterisation, enough descriptions to offer a sense of place and Ungar demonstrates a keen talent for plotting.  In all Rose makes for very entertaining and disturbing reading.

About Rami Ungar

Rami Ungar knew he wanted to be a writer from the age of five, when he first became exposed to the world of Harry Potter and wanted to create imaginative worlds like Harry’s. As a tween, he fell in love with the works of Anne Rice and Stephen King and, as he was getting too old to sneak up on people and shout “Boo!’ (not that that ever stopped him), he decided to merge his two loves and become a horror writer.

Today, Rami lives and writes in Columbus, Ohio. He’s self-published three novels and one collection of short stories, and his stories have appeared in other publications here and there. Rose, his first novel with Castrum Press, will be released June 21st, 2019.

When he’s not writing your nightmares or coming up with those, he’s enjoying anything from the latest horror novel or movie to anime and manga to ballet, collecting anything that catches his fancy, and giving you the impression he may not be entirely human.

https://ramiungarthewriter.com

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/46374205-rose

https://www.facebook.com/RamiUngarWriter/

@RamiUngarWriter

Buy Link

 

 

Launching Blackthorn Book Tours

I am thrilled to announce Blackthorn Book Tours, a review-only book tour service dedicated to dark fiction.

After almost a decade promoting my own novels I have a real understanding of how hard it can be sourcing reviews. I have pitched single emails to over two-hundred book bloggers for a single title. A 5% take up rate is said to be good. Out of that 5% maybe half will review. It’s demoralising, so I turned to paid book tour providers and booked tours. For a modest sum, the stress was removed, I could relax, and I got to enjoy the thrill of the tour and receive about twenty solid reviews of my book each time. But when I searched for a book tour service for my dark fiction, I couldn’t find one. Maybe I didn’t look hard enough.

Seeing many of my peers in the dark fiction scene also struggle to get reviews, I decided to create Blackthorn Book Tours, throwing in my lot with PR Manager and mover and shaker Henry Roi of Close to the Bone Publishing, and already we have a long list of top reviewers who have jumped aboard. We kick off our enterprise on September 1st with Bloody Sheets by Andy Rausch.

 

Following close on the heels are these three book tours:

You can find out more about our book tour service here https://isobelblackthorn.com/blackthorn-book-tours/

 

Book Review – Sangre: The wrong side of tomorrow by Carlos Colon

About Sangre: The wrong side of tomorrow

The harrowing saga of Nicky Negron’s tortured soul continues as the inner and outer demons shadowing Newark, New Jersey’s undead vigilante have no intention of letting him rest in peace. Knowing his paranormal existence can only lead to complications, Nicky tries not to draw too much attention to himself. This becomes difficult as he learns that he has captured the interest of an unrelenting federal agent. Suspected of being an assassin for a South American drug cartel, Nicky finds himself dealing with the exact kind of scrutiny he’s been trying to avoid since he was turned almost thirty years ago. It complicates matters even more when Nicky is confronted with another undead presence that is threatening to commit atrocities to the children of a friend Nicky had sworn to protect. This pits the foul-mouthed night stalker, Nicky Negron, against the most horrifying monsters – both the human and non-human variety. An absolute rollercoaster of a novel, Sangre: The Wrong Side of Tomorrow delivers even more suspense, insight, laughs, and emotional wallop than its predecessor. Nicky is back! See you on the other side…

My Thoughts

After a newspaper clipping relating a spate of beheadings in Brooklyn, including a drug dealer and a domestic abuse suspect – the reporter noting a new trend in gangland murders across the USA – Sangre: The wrong side of tomorrow opens with a scene on a public bus in New York on a hot August day in the 1960s as a young Nicky Negrón observes his surroundings and reflects on his life. Nicky is off to Alexander’s department store; he’s missing his little sister, Dani, and his relationship with his mother in the protracted aftermath of Dani’s death.

Skip forward to Nicky as he is now, as his genetically resistant undead self, having battled the evil vampire, Simone, in the first Sangre novel (if you have not read Sangre: The Color of Dying do so now because you are missing out on a terrific read. Although Sangre 2 can be read as a standalone) Nicky finds himself having vivid memories that could only belong to Simone, who he believes he had slayed. Apparently not. Terrified she is out to take full possession of him, he seeks the help of Dr Gunder, an epidemiologist turned vampire researcher and investigator, a doctor seeking to avenge the death of her son. What unfolds is so thoroughly entertaining it can be read in one sitting.

The story jumps back from time to time to Nicky’s past, providing a rich insight into the motivations and depth of his character. A deft catch up of Sangre 1 and Colon dives straight into the action. The attention to fine detail and small observances – the sweat, the smells, the settings – while never overplayed evoke in the imagination a gritty, urban vibe of working class life, especially for the Hispanic community: Nicky’s family are from Puerto Rico. The pace is fast in a four-to-the-floor read, slowed only by the reflections of the main character as he wrestles with his one inner nature and attempts to justify his less noble actions. I really enjoyed Colon’s utilitarian take on morality – the greatest happiness for the greatest number, or in this case, the least harm to the least number – as Nicky is compelled to feed on the blood of others. The author’s empathy for Hispanic culture shines through, as does his understanding that good and bad is never clearly defined, that life is filled with compromises, that sometimes a purely good choice is not an option and that forgiveness is possible. The novel is enriched by the theme of mothers and their bond with their offspring. A theme that plays out through the juxtaposition of Nicky’s own mother and her attitude to him, with the other mothers in the story.

In all, a thoroughly pleasurable and intelligent read with broad appeal that reaches beyond the confines of the horror genre. Highly recommended.

Find you copy of Sangre: The Wrong Side of Tomorrow on Amazon

A Time for Violence anthology wows readers

A Time For Violence

A Time For Violence: Stories with an edge is out to rave reviews and little wonder. This anthology contains many top names in the scene including several who have co-written with Stephen King. I am chuffed to have one of my shorts included.

Along with many of the authors, I was interviewed on T. Fox Dunham’s What Are You Afraid Of? podcast, which includes an extract of my contribution, LACQUER, read by David Walton.

Here are some early reviews of A Time for Violence

“I thoroughly enjoyed so many of the short stories featured in here. The contributors include many of my own favorite authors. Exceptional writing from authors like Max Allan Collins, Paul D. Brazill, Andrew Nette, Joe R. Lansdale, Elka Ray, Tom Vater, and Chris Roy. (To name just a few.) And, boy, that last story! ‘Waste Management’. The name says it all.” – Debbi Mack, author of the Sam McRae mysteries

A Time for Violence is a hard-hitting anthology that pushes the envelope on themes of violence. Though a few authors have co-written with the likes of Stephen King, every story is its own superb boundary breaker and draws the reader in with such intensity that every word feels like a heartbeat. This anthology is for those of us who have looked at the monsters created by humanity and not flinched when they returned our gaze. The stories never fail to deliver thought-provoking takes on oft-told tales. From roaring hitmen thrillers to tense, gritty investigations into the very human soul, A Time for Violence will satisfy your every crime-reading need.” – Grace Wilson

And here is a review quote on mine! –

“Lacquer By Isobel Blackthorn.
This is one of my favourites so far in the book, a private investigator ends up finding a Jane doe when his drinking goes too far and he ends up in an alley. The person wasn’t too far from the back entrance to the bar and a friend of his has also seen the deceased. His friend begs him to find out who this person is and he also feels compelled as it is a particularly gruesome crime.” – Haley Belinda Belinda, Goodreads

A Time For Violence Anthology Podcast with T Fox Dunham

A Time For Violence

What Are You Afraid Of? – Podcast with T Fox Dunham and David Walton

NEW EPISODE 115 – CURSE OF THE BLACKTHORN

“Author T. Fox Dunham interviews Australia’s noir and horror writer, Isobel Blackthorn. Isobel answers questions about her writing, the state of women authors in the industry, her thoughts on crafting and shares some insights for new authors. In addition to her interview, she sent the show a haunting tale of an aggressive entity that haunted her in the Cockatoo house, narrated by David Walton. Fox also plays an excerpt from her noir fiction, “Lacquer”, which is featured in the anthology A Time For Violence: Stories with an Edge, available on May 1st from Close to the Bone. It is an anthology of noir and horror stories featuring the best in the industry for 2019.” 

Listen to the Podcast:

What Are You Afraid Of?

What Are You Afraid Of?

Book review: The Unknown by Phil Price

About The Unknown

It happens every year. A select few disappear, never to return.

From The Falkland Islands to the Himalayas, Puerto Rico to England – people are vanishing without trace or explanation. A young man who’s lost everything stumbles across an ancient secret.

Can he unlock the mystery? Will he find those who need him?

…can he escape the Unknown?

My Thoughts

I rarely read fantasy/horror, but when I stumbled on The Unknown I decided to try it out. I was surprisingly entertained and even didn’t mind the vampires, which is a real credit to Price as I would normally stop reading the moment they appear. Writing with exceptional imagination, Price has a knack for luring his readers into his story world.

There can be no doubt Price ticks all the boxes of the genre. Strange and spooky happenings in far flung lands. A preternatural child with glowing yellow eyes. Vampires. Doors into other worlds. A looming sense of dread. And a black cross edged with silver on a black rope chain. The scene is set for a seriously creepy read.

Good characterisation, and Price is at pains to endear his protagonists to his readers. Effective world building is critical in the genre and Price has crafted a realm that is at once enchanting and menacing and convincing. I certainly lost myself in it.

After an engaging set up, The Unknown is filled with dramatic tension, with new plot lines and twists and plenty going on to hold the attention. Very well thought out, The Unknown is a visual feast and a gripping read. I would recommend to all who enjoy dark fantasy.