Saturday, June 30, 2018

BEHIND THE DOOR by Mary SanGiovanni

Some doors should never be opened. . .

BEHIND THE DOOR is one of my favorite books this year. Mary SanGiovanni delivers a startling tale of extreme terror. The cover caught my eye. I was intrigued by the door and what was behind it. BEHIND THE DOOR is small town horror at its best. Mary SanGiovanni has created one of the best female protagonists in Kathy Ryan. I thought she was superb. 

Enter not, nor give your soul to them behind this door. 

I believe Kathy Ryan appeared in CHILLS. I haven't read it yet, but I'm going to soon. I don't think you have to read CHILLS before this one. 

The small town of Zarepath has secrets. Deep in the woods on the border of New Jersey and Pennsylvania, stands the Door. No one knows where it came from, and no one knows where it leads. People go to the Door seeking comfort or forgiveness. They deliver a handwritten letter asking for the emotional weight to be lifted. They seal the letter with a mixture of wax and their own blood, and slide it under the door. Three days after performing the task, their wish is answered––for better or worse.

A grieving mother makes the mistake of trying to get her letter back. When she opens the door, everything comes pouring out––I'm talking sins, secrets, and spirits. All hell breaks loose. Occultist Kathy Ryan must find a way to seal the door. 

BEHIND THE DOOR grabs you by the collar and pulls you in. You can feel the dread and unease settle over the small town of Zarepath like an eerie mist. Strange things start happening. People start seeing things. 

Sheriff Cole Toby and Kathy Ryan are my favorite characters. Mary SanGiovanni has created one of the strongest female leads I've ever read about. I look forward to her future adventures. The author also does a great job with the small town and its citizens. Each character moves the narrative forward. There are no throwaway characters. 

Mary SanGiovanni delivers another gem. The vivid scenes jump from the page. At times, you will want to yell at the page because of certain characters. The bar scene stands out in my mind. I can still see that scene playing out in my head. The guy running for his life down deserted streets. I also loved the belly tentacles. It was so awesome! I love tentacles! That scene creeped me out and sent shivers down my spine. 

It's a race against time to close the door. Will they succeed? You will have to read this one to find out. 

From start to finish, this book reads fast. There's no padding or filler in this one. There are no slow parts. The tension stays tight throughout. The ending is great, too. Mary SanGiovanni flexes her writing muscles in BEHIND THE DOOR. 

If you think that cover is badass, just wait until you read the story.

Highly Recommend!

5/5 stars! ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Interview With Emily (Book Happy)

CHHR: Please give a brief introduction.
Hi! I'm Emily, and I’m from Texas. I love reading, drinking wine, and hanging out with my dogs.

CHHR: When did you start reviewing horror books?

I became a lot more focused on horror last year. I would read & review them occasionally over the last few years, but something really clicked for me last year, and I wanted to specialize the books I was reviewing more than I already was.

CHHR:  What social media platform(s) do you prefer? Why?

I prefer Instagram & Twitter. Both have great uses, but I think Instagram is my favorite. I like being able to have a long caption to talk about my book, and I made all my first book friends through Twitter.
CHHR:  Do you like print or eBooks? Or both?

I only like print books. eBooks make my eyes feel weird & I just prefer paper books. I know I miss out on things because of this, but I do not accept eBooks to review. They're also hard to take pictures of, and that's one of my favorite things to do.

CHHR: What does your ideal reading space look like?

I said in my intro that I like reading, drinking wine, and my dogs, so really anything that involves all 3. My couch is pretty cozy & I have lots of blankets.

CHHR:  What advice would you give your fellow horror book reviewers?

Use different mediums to find book recommendations, and don't just stick to one area to look for books. Once I started participating in horror discussions on Twitter, I heard about many books that I had not heard about on Instagram. Look on blogs, too, and follow publishers on Twitter. There isn't a ton of marketing for most horror, but there are so many great books out there.

CHHR: Do you dog ear or bookmark?

BOOKMARK. I used to dog ear up until a few years ago when I finally let my boyfriend talk me into using bookmarks. If I'm allowed to do a shout-out (take this out if not), Karlee from A Stranger Dream makes my favorite horror bookmarks.

CHHR: What is your favorite horror book? Why?

My all-time favorite horror book is The Shining by Stephen King. It was the first horror story that I really connected with, and I feel like it changed a part of me because I finished it wanting to experience that nervous/fearful feeling again. I think I had only had that feeling with movies until I read The Shining. Also, it's just such a great story & so much fun to read. I visited the Stanley Hotel last year, and have a picture of myself in a Redrum shirt holding my copy of The Shining outside of Room 217.

CHHR: What is your least favorite horror book? Why?

You want me to get yelled at, don't you? House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski. Before I was involved with book social media, one of my good friends really hyped it up to me because it's his favorite horror novel. I kept ignoring him, and he bought it for my for my birthday so I had to read it. The story started off well, and then everything fell apart for me. I've had enough literature homework to last me a lifetime, and I don't want to do more just to finish a horror story that is pretentious & convoluted instead of scary. I could go on about this book, but I'll stop.

CHHR: What is one thing that bothers you about your site?

I am really bad about keeping up with a blog & don't use one. I probably should. I have a WordPress & it's just sitting there.

CHHR: How do you keep up with the books you read?

I keep up with my books mainly through GoodReads. I also have a hashtag I use on Instagram to mark what I'm reading, so I can look back through that, too - #emilyscurrentread. I give away or sell a lot of books, but the ones I keep are on a certain side of the room so that I know what I've read.

CHHR: Do you use Goodreads?

Yes! I love that I can track what I've read & see what friends are reading.

CHHR: How do you feel about Amazon cracking down on reviews?

I hate writing Amazon reviews & I rarely review on there unless I'm asked to (I'm sorry, authors). Usually I've missed a curse word or something they don't like & it usually gets sent back.

CHHR: What makes a great horror book?

I like books that have an excellent balance of creepy & regular storylines. It it's all action, I get bored, and if there's no action, I get bored. I need that middle ground where the suspense is building well for the next spooky part. For the book to be great, the characters need to have some depth to the point that I could see them as actual people.

CHHR: Who is your favorite horror author?

If we're going by amount of books read & loved, it's Stephen King. However, I think Kristi DeMeester may have become my favorite writer. I can't get over the way she describes things. Her writing is so dark, creepy, and beautiful. It's like wearing the most gorgeous dress you've ever seen, but you're stuck in the dirt & the worms are crawling all over you. This is fairly common imagery in her stories, and I adore them. I can't wait to see what else she comes up with.

You can find Emily at:

Interview With Regina Stephens

CHHR: Introduction:

My name is Regina Stephens, or so you may call me. I’m going to be 29 this July and I am a hobbyist when it comes to writing and drawing. Like most of my profession, I hold down a day job in a mundane field where I can earn enough to feed myself and keep the lights on all while pursuing my dreams in the dark of the night.

CHHR: When did you realize you wanted to be a writer?

My tale might have taken a very different direction if I hadn’t become friends with a certain person. I’ve always had a passion for telling stories. Stephen King once described his past as dim lights shining through the fog, and I think much of my childhood is like that. So while I have vague recollections of telling people stories or acting them out with toys in the bathtub- telling stories and writing are different things. Writing became a thing of wonder when my best friend revealed she had written a manuscript. Granted, it was a book written by a twelve-year-old about unicorns and princesses; but I was in awe. You could make your own stories. Your own books. and share them. I was twelve when I began to create my own ideas and tales, and I began to write them down.

CHHR: What does your writing schedule look like? 

Schedules are a good thing. I believe in them. But much like any good thing (be it broccoli or exercise) I seldom implement it into my own life. Perhaps this is why I’m not a professional novelist, because I don’t block out time to write specifically. I write when there’s a lull at work. I write when I can’t sleep. I write because I have to. Because if I didn’t, I think something would be missing from me… It’s an old, dear friend; writing. And if I don’t visit with it in some way or another, something feels off or wrong. Perhaps if I were more segmented, if I was more consistent, I could be more than just a hobbyist. But don’t give me any ideas. That may be far too much power for one person.

CHHR: Do you have any interesting writing rituals? If so, what are they? 

I prefer to write in quiet spaces, with few people or interruptions. But I would also prefer to have a million dollars and not have a day job that sucks my soul dry like a bone in the desert. I don’t schedule my times for writing, so rituals can’t be a part of it or I would never get anything done. If I had to, say, get a cup of coffee before I could write anything; that might hinder me when I wake up at three in the morning with an idea and then try to go back to sleep. When you’re visiting your best friend, do you need a ritual to see them? No. You come as you are. In your underwear and oversized tee that has more holes than a Stephenie Meyer plot. Sure, writing is work, but so is any relationship.

CHHR: Do you like writing short stories or novels? 

I like both to be honest. Short stories are my instant gratification, fast and to the point. But they have to be simple ideas, easily conveyed in a moment or two. Novels are the big ideas, the big concepts. Big worlds to explore and travel in when the days are long. Each have their place in my heart like two children you love equally but differently.

CHHR: How is the horror scene where you live? 

I guess that depends entirely on what you are afraid of. I live in the middle of nowhere, off the grid, high up in the mountains. I have heard that isolation frightens a lot of people. I never has scared me, but everyone is different. There’s no community of Horror aficionados where I live, but I do live near old mining towns, and there is a love (or at least a commercialization) of ghosts and ghost hunting in the area.

CHHR: Do you use outlines or do you go with the flow? 

Some stories require an outline, because there are a lot of moving parts. Usually I have a notepad on my phone where I jot down notes and reminders for the story I’m working on, or little ideas I get. The rest of it I try to keep as natural as possible. I want these characters to be real, to feel real, and life seldom has an outline. At least, mine never has.

CHHR: How did publishing your first book or short story change your writing process?

Now when you say “publish”... I have not been brave enough to submit my writing for the public. I’m hoping to change that this year. But I wanted an idea that was good, fresh, and meant something. Now, my friend who got me into writing in the first place, she and I self-published a collaborated story of our two supernatural horror stories called “The Drowned Ghost.” I drew the cover art, which she colored, and she gave me a copy for Christmas last year. I wept.  

CHHR: What do you think makes a good horror story? 

So many things. Suspense? Foreshadowing? But ultimately, what makes a good horror story (or any story for that matter) is good characters. I don’t mean likeable, I don’t mean good people, I mean believable characters. Why do you think shows like NCIS can keep pushing the same shlock over and over without changing anything? Because of the characters. We like them. We want to see them doing things together, working off each other, solving the obvious crimes in familiar ways because we have come to love them. Horror takes it a step further- if these characters are in danger, you need to like them in order to feel afraid. You have to want them to survive in order to feel afraid. Otherwise, it’s not good horror. If you don’t care if they live or die, that writer did not make you afraid.  

CHHR: What are you currently working on? 

I am writing a historical horror set in 1859. It’s about a first mate on a whaling ship that gets damaged in a hurricane. After floating aimlessly on the sea, the crew begins to get hungry, and lots are drawn to see who will be the first to die to save the others. Our first mate is chosen and has twelve hours left to live before his crew will feast on his body.

CHHR: What is in your TBR pile? 

I just recently bought “The Dark Half” by Stephen King. I tried to read this when I was younger, but I lost interest and I can’t remember why. I’m going to give it another shot. I’ve also been working my way through “Moby Dick” and “Frankenstein” lately. Those have proven harder, but for different reasons. “Moby Dick” is hard because Melville keeps going off one two-chapter-long tangents about different kinds of whales that have no bearing on the plot. And “Frankenstein”... well it’s just damn depressing. Now I will finish both of these, but they just take more effort. I also want to read “Stand By Me” by Stephen King, and I’d like to read a few more Michael Crichton novels, but I haven’t decided which yet.  

CHHR: What is the last book that scared you?

I guess I have to ask in what way. The last book to give me nightmares was “Jurassic Park” by Michael Crichton. Mostly because the way he writes the Raptors in the book is just damn terrifying. I was plagued for years by dreams of Raptors coming to devour me alive. But if you want to ask the last book I was afraid to read, that was “Pet Sematary” by Stephen King. This frightened me for different reasons, and I’m still trying to read it. I have read it before, I know what happens. But for some reason, Gage’s death hit my feelings a little harder this time and I’ve been on the struggle bus to finish.

CHHR: What is your favorite horror book? 

“Red Dragon” by Thomas Harris. Sure, you could argue this is more of a “thriller” than a “horror” book and I would almost be inclined to agree with you. If we didn’t get the segments about Dolarhyde falling in love with Reba and then fighting himself to not murder her, then I would absolutely agree. But those are there. And I think they bring the book just far enough into Horror to qualify as an answer for this question. Coincidentally, this is also my favorite book.

CHHR: What is your favorite horror film? “Pan’s Labyrinth” a little unconventional, I’m sure, but hear me out. This movie takes place in Francoist Spain, where a fascist government is ruling the lives of suffering people. A little girl, who has dived deep into fairytales to escape the horrors around her, finds horror bleeding into her fantasy as her real life crumbles around her. When I told my brother this was one of my favorite movies, he replied with “Of course you would pick a movie you had to read.” Fair enough, but it’s worth it.

CHHR: What type of music do you listen to? What’s your favorite album? 

I have a pretty wide variety, everything from video game soundtracks to country music to Finnish operatic metal. Tirelessly, I will listen to the “Skyrim” soundtrack or even “The Poet and the Pendulum” by Nightwish.

CHHR: What is your spirit animal? 

Owls. Specifically Toyto Alba or the Barn owl. I like owls, they are interesting for many reasons, but my favorite is how people all over the world view them. The Greeks herald them as the symbols of wisdom. The Celts believed they were symbols of unfaithful wives. The Japanese regard them as lucky. The Hispanics say they bring death. One creature evokes such powerful emotions all over the world, and yet it simply exists. Quiet, silent, deadly. I used to have a black owl in my home. He was a Halloween decoration. He had bright red eyes, and I stuck him high up in a loft above my living room. I named him Lester. Friends hated Lester, they said he watched them wherever they walked. I thought he was cute, and I had him for five years before my dog Roscoe devoured him, leaving chunks of styrofoam and painted chicken feathers all over the house. I never did find his right eye. I assume he watches whoever lives there now...

CHHR: What is your favorite beer? 

Oh dear. You would think that because I live in Colorado I certainly could find a craft beer I enjoy. Because I am on medication for depression and anxiety, I am technically not supposed to drink alcohol. However, when I do, I drink things I know I will enjoy. Usually wines, or amaretto. My favorite drink, however is a “Sidecar” and if you don’t know what that is, you need to have one. It’s like a margarita, but with cognac and lemon instead of tequila and lime.  

CHHR: If you could have a beer with one author, who would it be?

Living or dead? Living, hands down I would have a drink with Stephen King. I wouldn’t need to ask any questions, or even talk. I think I’d just enjoy sipping a glass of wine in a rocking chair on his porch in Maine just watching the sun go down. Maybe listen to stories, maybe just listen to wind. But that would be enough for me. However, if I got to pick someone dead, I’d want to hang out with Edgar Allan Poe. I don’t feel as though he would be the quiet type who would just want to sit, but I think we could laugh, share some great stories, and probably cause a lot of trouble together. I should have liked to have my tombstone read “Was once arrested with Edgar Allen Poe.” That would be a lot of fun.

I have not made a website yet, but feel free to follow me on twitter @ReginasHorror

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

KILL CREEK by Scott Thomas

KILL CREEK transcends the haunted house trope. This is a debut novel and it shows. I started and stopped reading this book on three different occasions. The beginning is incredibly slow. So slow in fact, you can skip to the part where you get to the house. You wouldn't miss a thing. But let me go back and give you the details.

The author sets up a scenario where you have four people staying Halloween night in a so-called haunted house. The Finch House is your typical haunted house. It's located on the edge of town. It's empty, abandoned, and overgrown. 

It is supposed to be a publicity stunt. Wainright (is the founder of a website dedicated to all things horror) invites four of the best horror writers to the Finch House for a live-streaming. Each author specializes in their own type of horror. T.C. Moore is an erotic horror novelist. Sam McGaver is a teacher and a struggling horror writer. Daniel Slaughter is a Christian horror writer. Sabastian Cole is the heavyweight horror writer. 

While they are filming, the usual haunted house things occur. You get the noises and unexplained shadows. There is a mysterious third-floor bedroom that is bricked off, though. But nothing too out of the ordinary happens. That is when things start to pick up. 

To me, my favorite part is the history of the house. I love history. I could read about historical events and places all day. Anyways, you get to see what happened in the house from the time of its construction to the present. I also like the downward spiral. SH!T. The authors begin writing a novel. Oddly, the authors reunite at the Finch House a year after their live-stream event. 

Scott Thomas does a fantastic job weaving this tale of utter torment. The Finch House has a story needing to be told. KILL CREEK delivers the goods but doesn't avoid the usual tropes. The author explores the characters' backgrounds meticulously. 

Scott Thomas has a unique voice and I dig his writing style. The narrative was slow at times. The characters were solid. Like I said before, you can tell this one is a debut. The tension didn't stay tight throughout. At times, the tension did build, but it wasn't lasting. 

I had high hopes for the latter third of this book. I felt like the sails were taken out from under me, though. No longer did I feel the cool wind in my hair as I breezed through this book. I wanted to be surprised by the ending, but it played into a tired old trope. 

If you like haunted house stories, then you should give KILL CREEK a go. 


4/5 stars!⭐⭐⭐⭐

Monday, June 25, 2018

Interview With Renee Miller

CHHR: When did you realize you wanted to be a writer?

January 5, 1987.
Just kidding. I don’t know if there was a specific moment, because I’ve always written stories and imagined myself doing it as a career. Before learning to read or write, I used to scribble lines on a page and then “read” what I’d written to whoever would listen. Sometimes, I’d just tell my family an outlandish story and insist it really happened.

CHHR: What does your writing schedule look like?

I don’t have a schedule, because I’m disorganized and impulsive when it comes to my writing. Basically, I try to write or edit something daily, but I usually end up binging, which means I’ll write like a person possessed for several days, and then I don’t write for a while, then I’m possessed again, and repeat that forever.

CHHR: Do you have any interesting writing rituals? If so, what are they?

I have to have noise, but that’s as close to ritual as I get. If it’s too quiet, I can’t think.

CHHR: Do you like writing short stories or novels?

Both have different challenges that appeal to me. Short stories are hard, because I have the characters so detailed in my head it’s hard to keep their stories to just a few thousand words. I love the challenge of trying to make sure only the most important details remain on the page. Novels allow me to spread my wings a bit, but they’re also challenging, because I sometimes lose interest about half-way through. If I’ve lost interest, a part of me believes the reader will too, so it’s easy to abandon the whole thing and start something new.

CHHR: How is the horror scene where you live?

Hahahaha! There is no horror scene, unless you count Tweed itself as a horror scene.,_OntarioThere’s not really a book/literature scene at all here. If you want that kind of thing, you have to branch out to larger areas, like Kingston or Toronto.

CHHR: Do you use outlines or do you go with the flow?

Both. Sometimes an idea comes and it’s imperfect, so I’ll outline until it grabs me enough to write it. Other times, I just go with the flow. Cats Like Cream was a go with the flow kind of story, but I did some outlining before writing Church. My upcoming book, Eat the Rich, was entirely spontaneous and written over a couple of weeks.

CHHR: How did publishing your first book or short story change your writing process?

It didn’t. I wish I’d learned something that made me establish a process, but sadly, I did not.

CHHR: What do you think makes a good horror story?

It’s something undefinable, in my opinion, and it changes with each reader. That’s why I love this genre so much. You can write something that scares the bejesus out of one person, while the next might not be affected at all. Finding that disturbing element that will affect everyone is the fun part of writing horror for me.
I think the key to writing good horror is to avoid going for the obvious scare or gross out. Those are fun and have their place in horror, but it’s the subtle things that get under a reader’s skin for more than just the duration of the story, particularly things we encounter in real life.

CHHR: What are you currently working on?

I have three novels I’m editing. One is about an epidemic of migraine headaches that turn out to be something out of this world, and another is about a guy who gets swept up in a tornado and dropped in an alternate reality. He’s not sure if he’s died and gone to Hell or if he’s actually crossed dimensions. It’s more of a dark comedy/bizarro piece than horror. The last is a conspiracy type story where a secret agency attempts to reign in one of its top agents (who has gone rogue) by wiping his memory and dropping him into a disaster. I’m terrible at describing these things, aren’t I? I know.
And I have a lot of “in progress” stories. Some of them may never be finished. We won’t bore everyone with what each of those is about.

CHHR: What is in your TBR pile?

Working on Stephen and Owen King’s Sleeping Beauties at the moment, as well as Itch by A.A. Medina, and The Sea was a Fair Master, by Calvin Demmer. (What I’m reading depends on where I am, my mood, how much time I have, so I usually have at least two books going at the same time) I’ve got Outsiders by Stephen King lined up after those two. There are a lot more than that on my Kindle, including about five or six anthologies, but these are the ones I’ve lined up to definitely read in the near future.

CHHR: What is the last book that scared you?

It’s been a really long time since a book scared me. There’ve been several that made me cringe, like A.A. Medina’s “Siphon,” which I read recently, and some that have unsettled me, like C.M. Saunders’ “Human Waste,” and a couple of stories in Eddie Generous’s “Dead is Dead, but Not Always,” but I can’t remember the last time a book scared me. I think when you write this genre, it’s harder to get lost in the story as a reader. I can admire another writer’s skill, and acknowledge that what I’m reading will be scary for most people, but I don’t forget it’s just a story, so I don’t feel fear at the same level I used to when reading.

CHHR: What is your spirit animal?

This is probably the hardest question of them all. I want to say sloth, because I can get behind moving around as slowly as possible and sleeping most of the day, but that’s not really me.
I’d have to say a cat would be my spirit animal, but not because I’m bitchy and unpredictable. Cats are aggressive when they need to be (even if they’re the only ones who know why) and they’re solitary, but social if they feel like it. I prefer my own company most of the time. I could hermit in my house for weeks and never see another soul (except for my family) and be totally content with that. However, when I have to be around people, once I get over the initial “Ugh” factor, I usually enjoy myself. I talk a lot, so it’s not hard to make conversation or make people laugh. The second I can leave, though, I’m out of there.

CHHR: What is your favorite beer?

I don’t have a favorite beer. I mean, I don’t hate it, but I don’t like it enough to have a favorite. I’m more of a mixed drink person.

CHHR: If you could have a beer with one author, who would it be?

Only one? Let’s see… aside from online friends I’d like to meet, an author I’ve always looked up to and would love to have a conversation with is Margaret Atwood. Or John Irving, if she’s too busy.

Renee Miller lives in Tweed, Ontario. She writes in multiple genres, but prefers dark fiction with strong elements of horror, erotica and/or comedy.