She Will Rise – Calvin Demmer

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Five tips to definitely live (or die) by…

Following from last week’s short story ‘Spring Outbreak’ we continue down the road of Calvin Demmer’s Dark Celebrations series with yet another spectacular addition ‘She Will Rise’. If reading is an addiction then I must confess to being completely hooked to these short stories, I cannot get enough! Hoping to continue through the whole collection I am already so engrossed with each individual story and this one is no exception!

This story actually came across rather differently than the others, almost softer and more toned down to what I was expecting. Needless to say this didn’t last long as we are given wonderful twists and taken down a dark path no one can return from. However I really enjoyed the build up of this story, even though most short stories dive straight into the action this one allowed us to feel what the protagonist Luna was feeling (love towards her ill mother, grief for her dead twin sister and hatred for her step-father). By building these relationships and background we are able to mirror those emotions and understand the reasoning behind the actions taken.

We are drawn in straight away by Luna coming home from college for Easter break, knowing her mother is ill she wishes to make this weekend special. Little does she know that this Easter will change her life forever. Building on the relationship that Luna has with her mother really hit home for me, it takes a lot to care for someone but even more so to stand up for them! Luna shows courage and bravery to stand up to Ralph (step-father) and when all hope is lost, an unexpected ‘helper’ arrives.

Darkness is a common theme in Calvin Demmer’s work and sometimes the characters you least expect to have a dark twist emerge and bring with them sinister behavior. Without giving away any spoilers, Luna really surprised me with her characteristics towards the end. Not just the compassionate daughter, there is always more than meets the eye with people. Honestly I didn’t expect the ending (the VERY end sentence) which is why I enjoy these types of books, you never know what you’re going to get.

All the way through I was actually hating Ralph myself, getting that connected to another characters emotions is so hard to achieve but I was thinking about how repulsive he is and how Luna and her mother could do so much better (I think it was the throwing away the VCR tapes that did it for me). The fact that there were so many twists to this story kept me on my toes and I couldn’t wait to find out what happened next!

Hopefully I will get the chance to read more of Calvin Demmer’s work (I do aim to read the whole collection) as he always seems to surprise me. Even if you’re not a fan of horror genre you can still appreciate a good plot twist!

Until next time…

If you want to read ‘She Will Rise’ yourself you can purchase it on Amazon by following the link here.

Bio: Calvin Demmer
Calvin Demmer is a crime, mystery, and speculative fiction author. He has had over thirty stories published in various magazines and anthologies. When not writing, he is intrigued by that which goes bump in the night and the sciences of our universe.

Spells & Persuasions – S.J.Budd

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Dark, twisted and extremely believable…

Now this review will be slightly different to my usual book reviews, as this collection features 9 short stories in the dark fantasy genre but I will try to review them as a whole and pick out some highlights from each. Before we begin I would not suggest reading these before bedtime as they have such an element of realism, making you think about situations in your own life that these events could occur as well as giving you twists to leave you shocked!

As mentioned before this collection has 9 short stories in, I actually read this book twice! Not only because it was such a well written book but because I wanted to make the experience of reading it last longer and really take in each story as a whole (letting the twists and turns really sink in). Each story draws you in straight away, not needing a long build up to realise what is happening. By doing this you are already engaged with the characters situation and follow the story word by word.

The style of each story varies from modern day to fantasy (witches and spells) but all have an underlying theme that is ‘relationships’ whether this be in the form of mother and son, husband and wife or teenage crushes. Each story delves deeper into these relationships and shows the darkness behind them, even the most innocent of characters are not as they seem (A Most Devoted Son, The Little Orphan Girl & Hold Me Tight). These stories really make you think about your own experiences (especially Spells and Persuasions) where teenage crushes can turn into something horrific, especially when magic is involved.

Now the genre of all these stories is dark fantasy and as it is a genre I most enjoy reading, I must say I wasn’t disappointed. Each story took me down a route that I thought I would suss out the ending but always shocked me and left me wanting more answers when the plot twists came out of the woodwork! The writing is so well done that you turn each page with ease, completely engrossed with the story that S. J. Budd has provided. The darkness within these stories is done in a way that makes you want to keep reading but part of you knows that something frightening is yet to come.

Just to pick out some of the stories that I enjoyed the most (honestly I wish I could write a whole review for each one) – ‘The Mound’ was one story that felt very close to being a real life event, yes it had magic and ghosts but the underlying theme of adultery made it full of possible realism. Not to give away any spoilers but let’s just say that if your husband is cheating on you and you find out, be careful what you wish for!

Another one that I enjoyed thoroughly was ‘The Little Orphan Girl‘ this story was one that wasn’t set in the modern world but in a world that had witches. The reason for picking this was the fact it really creeped me out! Normally I don’t like little girls in anything remotely scary (films or books) but this story really showed that innocence can be misleading. Again not giving away any spoilers but this twist really had me, I kept trying to work out what would happen as I was reading but I would have never guessed that ending.

In all honestly I would highly recommend this collection as it does have a little something for everyone (even if you’re not a huge horror/ dark fantasy fan) as the story lines are very well thought out and the twists will leave you speechless. I will definitely be looking forward to any future works of S. J. Budd as her writing is spectacular (and scary!).

Until next time…

If you want to read ‘Spells and Persuasions’ yourself you can purchase it on Amazon by following the link here.

Bio: S. J. Budd
Originally born in Cornwall, south west England, her childhood was surrounded by myths and legends and she has always been fascinated by anything out of the ordinary. It was in this strange and ancient land where she developed a passion for writing.
S.J.Budd loves writing short stories exploring dark fictional worlds and its mysterious inhabitants, and is currently working on her first novel. Her day job involves working as journalist for http://www.findahood.com and she also blogs on her site http://www.sjbudd.co.uk
Her work has appeared in Sanitarium Magazine, Siren’s Call Publications, Deadman’s Tome, Innersins , Aphelion, Bewildering Stories, Blood Moon Rising Magazine, Shadows at the Door and Danse Macabre Magazine, The Wild Hunt, Morpheus Tales and Freedom Fiction. Twitter @sjbuddj

Dying Valentine – Calvin Demmer

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Don’t forget the chocolates and flowers…

This is the first time I’ve read a Calvin Demmer short story and from my research ‘Dying Valentine’ is the latest version in his Dark Celebrations collection, it is safe to say that I will be reading the rest of his collection! As a short story I was worried that I wouldn’t get into it but truth be told I was hooked from the beginning and wished there was more!

Straight away you are brought into the story, not much background information given but with the way it is written I’d say you wouldn’t need it. The story follows Daniel Hill who is nervous about meeting his girlfriend Julia’s parents on Valentine’s Day (what a day to meet them!) but little does he know that this particular Valentine’s Day isn’t going to be a pleasant one.

This book is a very typical ‘horror’ genre which is the type that I enjoy reading, however it starts out almost as a romance and takes an unexpected twist towards the end. With only a few characters mentioned in this book they all are very memorable and created so that you could fully relate to them. Daniel being the ‘nice nervous young guy’ for example, everyone knows a ‘Daniel’ in their lives which really brought this story to life for me. Being a short story you’d think that you couldn’t get invested in a character but oh how I thought wrong, I really felt for Daniel every step of the way.

At first I was very suspicious of the mysterious girl in the middle of the night, and honestly thought that the story was going to go down a different path when he invited her back to his place *without giving away too much! – however Calvin Demmer managed to completely shock me with the way the story ended! I wasn’t expecting it but I think the way it was done was amazing.

The only fault I have with it is that I wished it could have been longer, leaving me hanging like that at the end was just so unfair! That said, I will be reading more of Calvin Demmer’s work as I’m sure they are just as gripping, gruesome and entertaining as Dying Valentine.

Until next time…

If you want to read ‘Dying Valentine’ yourself you can purchase it on Amazon by following the link here.

Bio: Calvin Demmer
Calvin Demmer is a crime, mystery, and speculative fiction author. He has had over thirty stories published in various magazines and anthologies. When not writing, he is intrigued by that which goes bump in the night and the sciences of our universe.

P∃T Shop – Gary Buller

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Curiosity killed the cat…

For my first ever audio book review I was excited to listen to ‘P∃T Shop’ by Gary Buller, not knowing much about this book I was intrigued to see what it had in store for me! This book was quite short which I was slightly apprehensive about (30 minutes long listening time) however as the story progressed I kept wishing that it would be longer and never end!

Firstly I was very impressed with the way the audio book was as a whole, using music to enhance the experience was new for me (I’ve listened to a few audio books and all of them have been just the narrator telling the story). The way the music blended in the background helped set the scenes and really brought the story to life! I was worried that it would distract me from the actual story but it took it to a whole new level and made me feel so much more connected with the story.

The story itself is dark and mysterious, making the reader really feel as if you are with Brandon as he enters the ‘pet shop’ – the level of description is highly impressive, making it so easy to imagine how the shop would look, feel and smell. It’s safe to say this isn’t your ordinary pet shop! The character selection is small, two main characters Brandon and Horace and a few mentions of Brandon’s family – however you do find yourself able to relate to the characters and needless to say two main characters is more than enough.

Now on to the ‘pets’ – these creatures are not like any household pets, nor are they ones you would wish to bring home to live with you! The many varieties of creatures that lurk in the shop brings mystery and myth to a whole new level. Creatures such as mermaids and fairies can be seen to make an appearance yet they are not how us humans would imagine them! There are many darker and dangerous creatures that can be found in the shop, unfortunately Brandon’s curiosity gets the better of him and could take him down a dark path.

The creature creation really pleased me, giving the typical mythical creatures an unexpected twist. It gave the reader a chance to delve deeper into the creature’s background (like where Horace found them) and make the reader more curious to what else could be shown next…

The twist at the end was most enjoyable, in all honestly I wasn’t expecting it which frankly was what made it so perfect! I kept wishing that the story would continue as I did get so engrossed with it and wanted to learn more about the pet shop – having so many questions that were unanswered I am hoping that there could be another story to follow on from this.

Until next time…

If you want to listen to ‘P∃T Shop’ by Gary Buller yourself then you can directly download it from the ‘Gallery of Curiosity’ website here.

Bio: Gary Buller
Gary Buller is an author from Manchester, England where he lives with his long suffering partner Lisa, his daughter Holly, and dog Chico. He grew up in the Peak District where the hauntingly beautiful landscapes inspired him to write. He is a huge fan of all things macabre, and loves a tale with a twist.


Dead Over Heels – Theresa Braun

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Who said romance is dead…

It’s safe to say I was excited to read ‘Dead Over Heels’ as it is the genre of book I most enjoy reading. A paranormal, romance and mystery book which captivates you from the first paragraph, keeping the mystery alive of what brought Veronica and Sebastian to that time in their lives. I was quite wary when learning this was a ‘short story’ as I didn’t think it would have enough detail to keep me engaged… Oh how I was wrong.  This book is only 38 pages long yet manages to include so much depth to the story line, builds the characters of Veronica and Sebastian perfectly and keeps you interested throughout with unexpected events popping up.

‘Dead Over Heels’ introduces you to Veronica who many women who have tried online dating (myself included) can relate to. She is almost about to give up hope in finding her ‘true love’ when in comes Sebastian. The romance begins with online messages but finally builds to them having their first date (which is at a known haunted restaurant). However this isn’t an ordinary date when supernatural events start to unfold – linking Sebastian and Veronica in ways I never expected.

Battling through these ghostly encounters Veronica and Sebastian must come together to uncover the truth behind these events. With both of their pasts coming back to ‘haunt’ them, can their love survive digging deeper? As the story unfolded I was impressed with the connection Veronica and Sebastian had with the ghosts, the way that their relationship pushed through the ‘creepy events’ and kept me completely engaged the whole way through.

The twist at the end was so perfect, it made me angry but happy at the same time! I was hoping for the book not to end but sadly it had to (although ending beautifully). I personally wish that this book will have a sequel because I am not finished with Veronica and Sebastian.

This book was such an enjoyable read, it had everything I could have hoped for. The characters themselves are easy to relate too (who doesn’t know an awkward attractive guy or a girl next door type with an edge) – the story line flowed effortlessly and kept me thinking and wondering what could happen next. I can’t wait to see what Theresa Braun does next!

Until next time…

If you want to read ‘Dead Over Heels’ yourself you can purchase it on Amazon by following the link here.

Bio: Theresa Braun
Theresa Braun was born in St Paul, Minnesota and has carried some of that hardiness with her to South Florida where she currently resides with her two fur babies, who are her creative sidekicks. She enjoys delving into creative writing, painting, photography and even bouts of ghost hunting. Perhaps growing up in a haunted house in Winona, Minnesota is to blame.