Review: It Will Just Be Us by Jo Kaplan

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★★★

Crooked Lane Books | 2020

Filed Under: Damien babies as birth control


I love gothic horror and I love haunted houses, so this book had all the balls in its court from the jump. Big balls, little balls. Balls of all sorts. We don’t discriminate around here.

But there was one serious downer that stood out for me: this is a wordy motherfucker.

When it comes to a genre novel that should be building suspense, dread and thrills because the story requires it, being too long or a maniac with purple prose can be a serious issue. The only time length isn’t an issue, is when the plot events are making up that length, like so much is happening it requires extra pages.

In this case, it wasn’t that there was so much story to tell, and certainly the page count isn’t very high, but rather that the author was far too interested in metaphors and purple prose and just couldn’t stop using them. Like, an intervention was needed. Without all that filler, this would probably be closer to being a novella.

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Review: A Dark and Secret Place by Jen Williams

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★★★

Crooked Lane Books | 2021

Filed Under: A casserole that gets jail married to a serial killer and then does an episode of Dateline to explain why he’s actually innocent.


There are so many pieces of this novel that, individually, are dark and spooky and twisted and should have been captivating. But all those pieces put together in this way, in this particular narrative, just didn’t grab me by the literary bits like I was hoping it would.

When Heather Evans’ mother dies by suicide, she is left with a suicide note that doesn’t make much sense and a box full of letters from serial killer Michael Reeve, aka the Red Wolf.

No one ever truly knows another person because our inner lives are impossible to share. That coupled with how complicated it can be to know your parents outside of their roles as your parents, leaves Heather reeling.

Let’s be honest, if you found out your mom was besties with a serial killer who had hacked up some woman twenty years ago, you’d have a few fucking questions, too. And Heather, a journalist by trade (though currently disgraced,) has got some questions that she just can’t resist investigating. Who was her mother? Why was she so close to a serial killer? And I know Heather didn’t say it outright, but we’re all thinking it at some point – did her mother fuck a serial killer?

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Review: Home Before Dark by Riley Sager

“Every house has a story. Ours is a ghost story. It’s also a lie. And now that yet another person has died within these walls, it’s finally time to tell the truth.”

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★★★★

Dutton Books | 2020

Filed Under: I’m not in the habit of blaming Satan for every phenomenon.


I wish this had fully been a horror story because, from the bottom of my bottom, I know Riley Sager could totally kill a haunted house horror novel.

But, this is like haunted house horror adjacent. It’s intentionally walking that line of fact or fiction, skepticism or belief. You never really know what you’re going to get with each new chapter.

Home Before Dark is a little bit spooky with a touch of Amityville vibes and lots of that signature Sager misdirection and twisty-twists. But it does read like more of a mystery-thriller.

When Maggie Holt’s father dies, she inherits the haunted house she lived in for 15 days when she was 5-years-old, totally unaware that her father still owned it. She and her parents fled in the middle of the night from Baneberry Hall and never returned, claiming the house was going to murder them, basically. Her father even wrote a bestseller about it that gained the family national fame and scorn. Just like the real Amityville – who many believe was a long-con by the family – not everyone believes the Holt family’s claims. Not even Maggie.

Now a house-flipper and designer, Maggie was too young to really remember what happened, but she’s sure her father’s book is whole ass bullshit. Any time she’s tried to get the truth from her parents they are dodgy and shady AF. Now her dad’s gone and her mom is all “I’m leaving for Paris!” so if Maggie wants the truth, she’ll need to search for it herself.

What is one to do with an abandoned haunted manor that probably holds the key to all Maggie’s questions? Flip it and sell it, obviously. But to do that, Maggie needs to move back in. And she’s like I ain’t afraid of no ghost! and she moves the fuck in even though her father used his final words to be like don’t fucking do that. She did it.

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Review: Camp Slaughter by Sergio Gomez

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★★½

Independent Publication | 2019

Filed Under: I see you found my trophy room, Dalton. The only thing missing is your ass!


Ugh, damn it…

This is such a bummer.

I really wanted to love this, but nope, couldn’t get there. It was just meh for me. It’s got all the things you expect from a slasher story – unsuspecting victims being gruesomely murdered in the woods by a psychotic killer – but, really all it has are things taken from other slasher stories. A lot of this felt off, like it was simply a copy of a copy rather than a story with something of its own to say. And it wasn’t exactly scary.

The plot invests in giving the cannibal killer a backstory, but I found it kind of boring, with pieces that didn’t totally connect. He was living independently off the grid, has excellent hunting skills, can make pants out of human skin and has escaped detection as a prolific serial killer for years, but he’s also intellectually disabled with the linguistic skills of a third grader? And he’s a cannibal, but also interested in keeping women as pets? Um, okay.

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The killer was a mishmash of every other killer from other slasher stories and that felt kind of lazy. Like, just put Leatherface, Jason and The Hills Have Eyes cannibals into a cabin in the woods and then fold in the cheese. And voila! It’s this fucking guy.

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