Belle Vue is a well written, page turning, hard to put down, gothic horror novel set in an insane asylum with a deeply disturbing past.
The author tells the story in two different eras. The story opens in the 1860's, with Mary and her sister, Ellen in the forefront with Belle Vue in full operation, complete with the cruel and sadistic treatment of its patients.
Present day Belle Vue, has been renovated into luxury apartments and Claire has decided to move in. Her boyfriend Alex is thrilled and sets his sights on learning the history of the asylum. Soon, Clarie's friend, Marianne (who had a ghoulish childhood experience with her sister while creeping around the abandoned asylum) comes to stay with her.
Once Claire is settled, peculiar things start to happen. Shadowy figures lurk in hallways, strange goings on happen in the apt, utilities go haywire, and more specific, personalities begin to change. Are the past and present of Belle Vue coming together? An elderly neighbor who worked at the asylum in the 1950's may have some answers but is hesitant to speak.
I really enjoyed this book. The writing was strong, descriptive and atmospheric. It was clear that Ms. Alleyne had done her research and I felt like I had jumped into the book and felt the horror that the patients lived everyday.
The author moved from one time period to another seamlessly. The story flowed smoothy. Belle Vue had what every good horror novel has: Terror. It was scary, creepy, disturbing with twists and turns and a good ending.
I thought the characters and plot were stronger in the 1860's timeline. The author did a great job writing the antagonists in both eras, but the villains in the 19th century were ruthless, they lusted after revenge, sex, money and power. They were edgy, fighters, and we understood their motivation and why a few of them had become the person they were.
The modern story and characters weren't as gritty. Alex was hard to connect with and sometimes even hard to like. I didn't always understand Claire's affection for him, but Belle Vue's story was so solid and compelling, it didn't take away my enjoyment of the book, but I did notice it.
All in all, a great read if you're a fan of gothic horror, like I am.
*I received a complimentary ARC of Belle Vue from Crystal Lake Publishing in exchange for an honest review.
**There are a couple explicit scenes that include sexual violence.
In 324 Abercorn, Mr. Gunnells has written a fun, entertaining -creepy at times - story about Brad Storms, a successful horror author who now has the means to buy a house in Savannah that he had seen years ago on a haunted tour of the city. Brad is an old school skeptic about all things otherworldly.
It starts off fast, we meet most of the characters in the first few chapters. Tobias "Bias" Silver, a young, free spirit sort who does ghost tours of the city, who is a fan of Brad and a firm believer of ghosts and all things supernatural.
Neisha Parker, works as a museum curator at the Maverick Heritage House next door and knows the whole sorted history of Brad's house.
Harold "Titty Titty Gangbang" is Bias' drag queen roommate. He's a great character, fun, flamboyant and endearing. And I can't forget Harold and Bias' own ghost, Melinda, who shares their apartment.
A few other secondary characters round out the cast and add an air of mystery.
As strange things start to happen in the house, the plot thickens and the last chapter or two turns darker then the rest of the book. It's well written. I found myself turning the pages quickly to find out what forces were at work inside the house.
I liked the romance between Brad and Bias. It happened quickly, but they compliment each other and Bias seemed to get Brad to 'loosen up" and look at life a little differently.
I don't know the author's plan, but this would make a fun series. Or at least, a trilogy.
A haunted mystery, more than a horror story, I enjoyed it and would read more from Mr. Gunnell in the future.
I received an ARC from Crystal Lake Publishing in return for an honest review.
IF IT BLEEDS, the title story, is the 3rd installment in the book, the longest and my favorite. It marks the return of Holly Gibney from the Mr. Mercedes series, which I loved, as well as appearing in The Outsider. Mr. King has created a wonderfully complicated, neurotic and smart character in Holly. This story is all hers and she shines. As does Jerome and his sister Barbara (also Mr. Mercedes), who I was thrilled to see again.
MR. HARRIGAN'S PHONE is the lead story and a close second behind If It Bleeds for my favorite. Mr. Harrigan, an old, wealthy man, hires a kid named Craig to read to him. The story examines their friendship, a cell phone Craig gives to Mr. Harrigan, a death, and a modern way of speaking to the dead. Well done.
THE LIFE OF CHUCK is a story in 3 parts and told backwards. The first chapter is set as the world is ending and billboards proclaiming CHARLES KRANTZ 39 GREAT YEARS! THANKS CHUCK! pop up all over and everywhere. Intriguing, creepy and well written, I was drawn in immediately.
The 2nd chapter introduces us to Chuck in his late 30's and his family, as they gather around his hospital bed.
The 3rd chapter gives us insight into Chuck from his childhood until adulthood. Still going strong and I'm anxious to find out how it all comes together.
But it never does. Not for me anyway. I don't usually read other reviews before writing my own, but I was feeling pretty silly that I couldn't understand the connection. Turns out, I wasn't alone and many were left scratching their heads and I was there with them.
THE RAT is the last story. Drew, a college professor and part-time author, leaves his wife and kids to travel to his family cabin deep in the Maine woods to write his breakthrough novel. During a raging snowstorm and while fighting the flu, he takes an elixir which is the only medicine available at the small country store. As the night goes on, Drew ends up saving a talking rat, which he ends up making a deadly deal with. More in line with a fable, complete with a moral at the end, it had elements of a psychological thriller and I enjoyed it.
Overall, a good summer read. Not the level of horror you may expect or want from Mr. King, but solid, creepy stories. 4 Stars.
Crystal Lake Publishing
Edited by Mercedes Yardley
In the midst of our very own strange reality and new (temporary) normal, I curled up with an *ARC of Arterial Bloom, which I received in exchange for an honest review. *
Most of us, especially those of us who love horror, concede that human beings are far more terrifying creatures than any demon, witch, or superstition. Many of the stories in this anthology showcase the evils of humanity. For me, that makes the horror more plausible and alarming.
The authors seemed to go deep into the dark recesses of their minds to find unique, imaginative, and macabre stories. None of the stories were predictable, which was refreshing, but not every story had a definitive conclusion. Sometimes that works and sometimes it doesn’t. I usually like a clear, precise reason for the things that happen in a story and in the ending. But for the most part, it worked here. Some of the stories left me wondering, but if done right, not knowing can leave you more unsettled. And most of these were done right.
All the stories were well written and engaging. The editing allowed the author’s individual voices and writing styles to come alive in their characters and plots.
I’m not one to critique each story because reading is subjective and personal. I enjoyed them all but a few stood out for to me.
“Blue Was Her Favorite Color” by Dino Parenti – a somber tale of loss with a grim and startling twist.
“In The Loop” by Ken Liu – The reality of this one made it incredibly chilling.
“The Darker Side of Grief” by Naching T. Kassa – A young boy, simultaneously haunted by and grieving for his dead mother, gets help from an surprising place.
“Dog (Does Not) Eat Dog” by Grant Longstaff – an apocalyptic tale that pushes two friends to the brink.
Staying home and catching up on your reading? For fans of horror and dark fiction, Arterial Bloom is a great addition to your TBR pile.