What Hides Within by Jason Parent

What Hides WithinWhat Hides Within by Jason Parent

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Clive Menard thinks nothing of it when he destroys some webbing whilst out kayaking – that is until he begins hearing a voice inside his head. Questioning his own sanity, he desperately tries to rid himself of the oddly feminine presence, but to no avail. The dark passenger is there to stay – or so that’s what she continues to tell him.

(WARNING: This review contains spoilers.)

I received this book in exchange for an honest review. I thank Bloodshot Books for giving me the opportunity.

The synopsis of this book instantly captured my attention. Just what could be more interesting than a talking spider living inside someone’s head? I happen to love the little eight-legged critters, so believe me when I say I didn’t hesitate to request this novel. Think of my delight when my request was accepted, and I was thus introduced to Parent’s world, and more specifically, Clive’s rather uneventful, mundane life; a life we can all relate to in some way. I liked Clive, despite him being a very negative and oftentimes selfish person. His inner monologue mostly consisted of insulting people, which added a nice touch of humour. I always appreciate when something I read makes me smile, and What Hides Within definitely did.

Other characters included Reilly; a detective with detachment issues, Morgan; the love struck best friend, and a questionable amount of perverted men. Okay, so there was two, but Derek was more than enough for me. Each and every one had their own very apparent flaws; selfishness, narcissism, the list goes on. I think they were intentionally depicted badly, to enforce Chester’s motivation.

Speaking of Chester, she was the star of the show. The she-spider fascinated me in the way she was written; remarkably intelligent, manipulative, and deliciously deceptive. I admit, I had no clue of her intentions until the last half of the book. I consider myself perceptive – more often than not I can predict where the plot is going, but with Chester I was kept guessing with a multitude of questions coursing through my head. She certainly wasn’t the typical baddie, and whilst she possessed obvious abilities and wasn’t quite normal, she still only had the physical form of a small arachnid. Her weaknesses were made known throughout; she could just as easily be crushed like any other household spider, and that aspect so clearly fuelled her bitterness.

Naturally, I found myself wondering about her origins – where’d she come from? Just what, exactly, was she? She offered so little to Clive throughout, it nearly made me insane. That is, until this luscious morsel:

“In truth, I don’t have a name. I am very old, descended from divinity. My kind was cast aside by a hateful ruler, before our fathers could name us and before our mothers could nurture us. Even so, we were giants amongst men, beings worthy of great reverence. But our creator had no use for us, and we were exiled, wrongly punished for our parents’ sins. He chose not to destroy us, instead transforming us into these insignificant specks, forgotten by humanity and the omnipotent themselves.”

You’ve no idea how many times I’ve read over that paragraph, in an attempt to decipher it. There’s so much information in that small piece, and it’s the most we get. My thoughts turn to Arachne of Greek mythology (Chester did mention this name), and my assumption is that Chester and her kind are descendants of Arachne, whom was cursed by a God and turned into a spider. The story of myth and Chester’s description doesn’t quite add up, however, so perhaps Parent added his own take. Either way, I took pleasure in trying to figure her out.

The plot was a slow burner – it focused on acquainting the reader with the characters and the relationship between man and spider, whilst sprinkling some mystery elements into the background. Despite not being action-packed, the build up to the explosive climax was no less exciting. When it came down to it, I wasn’t expecting the last twist involving Clive.

In conclusion – I found it very enjoyable. The horror was subtle, yet superbly weaved. Considering the ending, is Chester’s antics really done? I don’t think so!

Notable Scene:

Had Clive been capable of even sporadic coherency, he might have feared the hideous being perched on his snout. The minute animal protruded like a wart no more than a third of an inch off Clive’s skin. Despite its size and his heavily medicated state, Clive could easily make out what it was; a spider, but unlike any he’d seen before.

© Red Lace 2018

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Woom by Duncan Ralston

Woom: An Extreme Horror NovelWoom: An Extreme Horror Novel by Duncan Ralston

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Finally returning to the one place that’s caused him a great deal of pain in his life, Angel hires Shyla – a prostitute that has no idea what’s in store for her. Settling down into Room Six at the Lonely Motel, Angel begins their encounter with stories of that very room – terrible stories that Shyla finds hard to believe. Just what is Angel’s motive? Shyla will inevitably find out, one way or the other.

(WARNING: This review contains spoilers.)

One thing’s for sure – this one will stay with me for a while to come, it’s even possible that I’ll never forget it. It’s seared into my mind, each and every disturbing tale that left Angel’s lips. Despite becoming so engrossed in the twisted playground that is Ralston’s imagination, I actually needed to take several breaks throughout and come up for air. I’m fairly new to the whole “extreme” side of horror, and whilst I enjoy the pushing of limits and whatnot, I feel small doses are best. Admittedly, one particular story actually caused me to feel a bit sick. Don’t get me wrong, I consider myself having a strong stomach, but there’s some things that just freak me out, and what transpired with Mary in “Woom” was one of those things. Perhaps it’s because what Mary did to herself wasn’t far-fetched at all; it’s a very real thing that women in the world still do to themselves, or maybe it’s just because I own a vagina and the descriptive detail offended my female parts.

Below are the respective parts of the book, and the “theme” for each tale.

Room 6 – Essentially the introduction, where Angel and Shyla first met. I admit, Angel gave off that serial killer vibe from the beginning, despite being all gentlemanly and polite.
Cram(ps) – What’s the term? Stuff or swallow? Boy, this one was unpleasant to start with, but Ralston just had to add icing to the cake. It got considerably worse. (Drug muling, miscarriage.)
Pro(lapse) – Probably my least favourite of the lot. It didn’t deal directly with Angel or Shyla, but added some rather bizarre humour. (Rectal prolapse.)
Woom – As I’ve already stated, this one made me feel sick. I don’t even want to think about it anymore. (Bathroom abortion.)
(S)mother – It was Shyla’s turn to share. I wasn’t surprised at all by her account – someone in her profession would obviously meet all sorts. (Account of rape, asphyxiophilia.)
Man(nequin) – This was my favourite! I didn’t see it coming. At first I felt sorry for Bethany, but she was absolutely mad as all hell by the end. (Mutilation.)
(Still)born Again – The climax of it all, and what a climax it was. I knew Angel had something in mind, but I didn’t know just how twisted it was. (Rebirthing.)

I know a lot of people are put off by an authors intent to shock and disgust, and I’d agree if the plot suffered and was nothing more than fluff. I, however, think there was a clear, thought-provoking story here; one of hardship after hardship, and a person’s tragic connection to a specific place. Angel was, by all means, a very traumatised individual that obviously needed professional help, yet I suppose, in a way, professional help is exactly what he received from Shyla. Do I believe the room itself had anything to do with it? Well, it was definitely odd that that specific room was the stage to most of the events, and considering the number of the room, it was implied something more was going on. I, however, don’t think the room was “evil”, or had any paranormal connections. Perhaps negativity just attracted negativity.

I was spurred on to do a bit of research of my own after finishing, regarding the rebirthing therapy. I love it when something I read prompts me to delve deeper into a topic I wouldn’t otherwise be interested in, or even know about. Whilst Angel took it WAY too far in the end, the practice itself, specifically the blanket / pillow version, is heavily controversial. What’s especially harrowing, is the story of Candace Newmaker; a ten year old girl who died during a seventy-minute session. I recommend reading about it, if you’re into that sort of thing!

Originally I gave a rating of three, but I’ve increased it to much-deserved four. I’m glad I happened across this on Amazon!

In conclusion – Very well done, but not for the faint of heart. Includes highly sensitive material. I’ll be reading more of Ralston’s work in the future – something about the dark and twisted is addicting.

Notable Quote:

“You should always listen to that voice when something doesn’t feel right. Always look for the red flags. Stop worrying about being nice, about making a scene. I know that now.”

© Red Lace 2018

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Blood Moon by Graeme Reynolds

Blood MoonBlood Moon by Graeme Reynolds

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Top Read 2017 * * * * *

Atrocities committed in the name of war. In this incredibly brutal finale, the world attempts to deal with the fact that werewolves are real, and oh-so-dangerous. Security measures are taken and, on both sides, death is dealt to those undeserving. As the body count increases exponentially, difficult decisions have to be made, and extreme action has to be taken.

(WARNING: This review contains spoilers.)

It’s no secret that I absolutely adore this bloodstained trilogy with all my heart – each instalment elicited an abundance of excitement, thrilling me with every character and their often perilous ventures. Blood Moon proved to be one hell of an epic conclusion, even if it left me saddened because I just didn’t want it to end. It’s extremely rare that I consistently rate so high – usually I find highs as well as lows, my overall enjoyment changing, sometimes drastically, throughout a series, but with Graeme’s wolf-tastic world, each addition kept me entranced. Not only did it maintain its strong quality of descriptive writing, it continued to surprise, delight and disturb me. There’s actually something I feel I need to state, because it’s been in my mind and, for me, it holds a lot of significance:

An author doesn’t need to be a best-seller, or have a great deal of recognition to be a great writer. I believe it’s our job, as readers, to discover the hidden gems out there, to bring acknowledgement to the stories that bring us joy.

It pains me to think of deserving authors going unnoticed, and not even given a chance by the wider community, but I digress. Let’s get back to the review, shall we?

There’s a lot of characters to keep track of and, I admit, returning after a year since reading Moonstruck was confusing at first. I found myself trying to remember who was who, but it swiftly returned to me the further I went. I daresay these novels are meant to be read in order; context plays a big part in understanding how the war came to be, not to mention the journey each character had to traverse to reach that point. Marie and John were undoubtedly my favourites, as despite being apart for most of the book, they had time to shine in their own individual ways. Marie had to step-up, become what she never thought she’d become, and John had to endure and overcome a great deal.

Of course, amongst the large cast, others stood out as well – Phil and his desperation to return to his beloved wife, and Daniel, who just wanted the best for the pack. Every single one had their own unique personality, and their own agenda that added a considerable amount of substance.

To tell you the truth, it was at times hard to root for either side. Both the human force and the werewolf pack did terrible, terrible things. Just who was the lesser evil? Well, I’m not sure, both were neck-deep in murky waters – the pack just wanted to survive, but in retaliation of their species being killed and imprisoned, they set upon a whole town of human civilians, either savagely butchering them, or turning them into moonstruck. This included children, so I can’t quite say the pack was at all innocent in the situation. I felt a whole lot of dread right before that High Moor slaughter; I knew it was coming and the anticipation nearly killed me.

The ending I considered to be bittersweet. I understood why it needed to be so, but I still felt rather bad about it. It was, after all, a last resort, and I couldn’t stop thinking about what all those people would lose. I almost had tears it my eyes, and that’s another oddity, as most of the time nothing I read renders me so emotional, and if it does, that in itself makes it special.

One more thing, before this review comes to an end. A paragraph in chapter eighteen piqued my interest, specifically, this one:

On occasion, the she-wolf picked up the scent of fresh death in the air, and when the two of them happened across an old stone mausoleum, the air crackled with an atmosphere of malevolence that raised both wolves’ hackles and forced them to back track to find another path around the place.

Is it possible that was a hint of another monster? Perhaps it was just me, but I got a vampiric vibe that I just couldn’t shake! It’s a little – a mere hint – but it certainly stuck out. Since it was confirmed that other creatures did exist, I kept it in mind to pay extra attention for any teasers, and I believe I may have found one.

In conclusion – I was lucky to discover this trilogy, and honoured to read it. Werewolf horror at its finest, and I hope Reynolds one day returns to this world. I’m sure it has much more to offer.

Notable Scene:

Where Amy’s pretty face had been, there was only a bloodstained skull. The bone had deep gouges carved into it and Amy’s beautiful blue eyes stared out of the gore at nothing. Her friend’s body stood on its own for a second, then fell to the floor in a crumpled heap. Anna couldn’t help herself. She turned to Matty and was met by a visage from the depths of hell. The boy’s eyes were flat, reflective disks in the flicking candlelight. His face is distorted – the bone stretched into a snout filled with row upon row of razor sharp fangs. A mass of bloody flesh and muscle dangled from between those terrible jaws. They crunched once, then swallowed. Matty brought up a clawed hand and wiped his mouth. “Aye, she wasnae wrong. She did have a tasty face.”

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© Red Lace 2018

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