Published  November 28, 2023 by Starwatch Press T he faeries of Witchwood Manor have stolen its young lord. His governess intends to steal h...

Book Review || The Witchwood Knot by Olivia Atwater

Published November 28, 2023 by Starwatch Press

The faeries of Witchwood Manor have stolen its young lord. His governess intends to steal him back.

Victorian governess Winifred Hall knows a con when she sees one. When her bratty young charge transforms overnight into a perfectly behaved block of wood, she soon realises that the real boy has been abducted by the Fair Folk. Unfortunately, the lord of Witchwood Manor is the only man in England who doesn’t believe in faeries—which leaves Winnie in the unenviable position of rescuing the young lord-to-be all by herself.

Witchwood Manor is bigger than its inhabitants realise, however, and full of otherworldly dangers. As Winnie delves deeper into the other side of the house, she enlists the aid of its dark and dubious faerie butler, Mr Quincy, who hides several awful secrets behind his charming smile. Winnie hopes to make her way to the centre of the Witchwood Knot through wit and cleverness… but when all of her usual tricks fail, who will she dare to trust?

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The author states that The Witchwood Knot "started as a cross between the movie Labyrinth and the faerie tale known as the Twelve Dancing Princesses". She admits that what she ended up with wasn't exactly what she planned but that doesn't mean it's any less fantastic. Instead, it's difficult to put a distinct name on the end story.

Is it gothic? Yes. 
It is a fairytale? Yes. 
But is it romantic and whimsical at the same time? Also yes!

The world Atwater created is marvelous. It has everything good gothic fiction should. Isolated countryside mansion resplendent with stained glass windows surrounded by a wrought-iron fence. Pointed gables, white columns like skeletal fingers, screaming faces in the walls. All the finer things really.  Like any good worldbuilding, hers has its own rules that one must abide by but I won't give all the secrets away. 

The characters are what endeared The Witchwood Knot to me. Winnie is well suited to her position as a governess. She handles her charge quite well and when he is replaced by a fetch, doesn't hesitate to head into the fairy realm after him. Mr. Quincy, butler extraordinaire, and Winnie's interactions are frustrating (for Winnie) and yet endearing. He's very smooth but there are many secrets and he is unwilling to impart his knowledge just quite yet. Her charge is quite surly and you almost immediately dislike him as a spoiled child, but like Mr. Quincy, there is so much more than meets the eye. Oliver, the protector spirit cat that resides in his own skull, was destined to be my favorite as soon as he was introduced.

I was quite surprised by the romance. It didn't seem like the characters had anything in common to even find romance an option. Even once it started developing, it lingered for so long before actually becoming romance, that I had just about given up on it. After it was all said and done, this sweet and thoughtful romance made it seem like all the rest hadn't come before. How confounding and yet, I'm still completely on board despite certain anatomical protrusions. No, not that one.

Read it for yourself and you'll see. 

How is freaking January almost over!!  I can't believe it's the 21st already.  This month has pretty much been a wash too. I got sic...

This Month in Horror || February 2024

How is freaking January almost over!!  I can't believe it's the 21st already. 
This month has pretty much been a wash too. I got sick right after Christmas with an upper respiratory, which turned into a sinus infection, which turned into two weeks of antibiotics and steroids. I can't say given the three weeks of ick that I'm sad to see all that behind me (finally). Stupid crappy sinuses. It did, however, give me time for reading when I was bonding with the couch.

So what did I read? I really didn't have the brain power to read any ARCs so I dug into Libby for some books from the library that had been on my TBR for a while. I read Blaine Dailgle's A Dark Roux, an atmospheric Southern Gothic set in the bayou with plenty of magic and mystery. I finished The Spirit Bares Its Teeth by Andrew Joseph White, which I actually started in 2023. This Victorian horror with a trans protagonist was clever and surprisingly bloody. Most recently I finished Camp Damascus by Chuck Tingle, featuring a religious-run gay conversion camp with a very disturbing "treatment". The ending was ferocious and satisfying.

Of course, being a bookworm, even before I finish my current read, I'm thinking about my next read. I've already picked a few releasing in February to go on my TBR list. It was hard to narrow it down to just a few but there's only so many books I can get through. 

See the whole list of 2024 releases here

Labyrinth meets folk horror in this darkly romantic tale of a girl who wishes her baby brother away to the Lord of the Wood.

Say less.  

As an 80s kid, Labyrinth is still one of my favorite movies. Add folk horror with a dash of romance?  I'm completely sold. 

And that cover? Gorgeous and creepy! 

I just got approved for this one through Netgalley. Can't wait to start it. 

T. Kingfisher is one of those that I will read anything by. Doesn't matter what the synopsis is, I'm in. That being said, this is book two after What Moves The Dead, a Fall of the House of Usher retelling, which was perfectly dark and eerie. Rabbits, am I right? *Shudders* 

What Feasts at Night is follows soldier Alex after the collapse of the Usher estate as they head onwards to a new adventure, this one involving a "breath-stealing monster". 

Another perfectly disturbing cover for book two as well. 

Inherited cabin in the woods is the setting for And Then There Was Silence

After the death of her husband, Sadie goes out to the cabin to grieve and reset but the woods are weird and she smells her husband. 

I'm not sure where this one is going to go. Is it ghosts or something else? The blurb is quite vague which I love. I like being intrigued but not having everything given away before I even start. 

The early reviews are all 5 stars on Goodreads!


I love dark fairytales, especially enchanted forest fairytales! 

In this tale by Premee Mohamed, Veris must enter the forest to rescue the two children of the local Tyrant (yes capital T). She's the only one who has ever succeeded in doing so. 

If she fails, she dies. If she stays in the forest for more than a day, she's trapped there. I love high stakes! 

Gorgeous cover art on this one as well. 

Violet's life is 

Her mother remarried, has a new baby, and now Violet has a new house. She's put in the attic bedroom with faded yellow wallpaper and shortly after, falls ill with no improvement.

 What's making her sick? And are the shadows moving in the corners just the light or something else? 

Middle grade horror can be so fun and surprisingly spooky!

If we are picking reads solely based on the cover, Your Shadow Half Remains is February's go-in blind pick for me. 

Kudos to the artist because this cover is unsettling and weird and I love it. 

Here's part of the blurb: 

One look can kill. 

Riley has not seen a single human face in longer than she can reckon. No faces, no eyes. Not if you want to survive. 

Published  October 31, 2023 by Tor Nightfire N at Cassidy is at his razor-sharp best again with his horror novel Nestlings, which harnesses ...

Book Review || Nestlings by Nat Cassidy

Published October 31, 2023 by Tor Nightfire

Nat Cassidy is at his razor-sharp best again with his horror novel Nestlings, which harnesses the creeping paranoia of Rosemary's Baby and the urban horror of 'Salem's Lot, set in an exclusive New York City residential building.

Ana and Reid need a break. The horrifically complicated birth of their first child has left Ana paralyzed, bitter, and struggling―with mobility, with her relationship with Reid, with resentment for her baby. Reid dismisses disturbing events and Ana’s deep unease and paranoia, but he can't explain the needle-like bite marks on their baby.

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The Deptford is known for celebrities, exquisite architecture, and views of Central Park. Despite its high profile, it remains somewhat of a mystery, as its residents are extremely protective of their privacy within its walls. However, for Reid and Ana, the Deptford represents a new start and presents a financial opportunity they can't possibly turn down. 

Cassidy sets the tone of the novel in the very first sentence of the novel. "We don't belong here." Ana feels that something is off while touring the apartment and that feeling only grows stronger as they are settling in. Oh, not for Ried though. Reid is completely charmed by the Deptford and its odd residents, leaving Ana alone with that creeping sense of unease.  The dread multiplies with each little oddity as Ana insists that something is wrong with the Deptford and something is wrong with Charlie. 

Cassidy has thoughtfully created characters with authenticity, and the worries and dilemmas they face are utterly relatable. Ana's paranoia parallels that of Polanski's Rosemary but what Cassidy has created here is its own being. Ana is not only haunted by the occurrences of the Deptford, but also by the trauma of Charlie's birth, the night she and Reid don't talk about, and by the changes in her own body. Ensnared by their circumstances, the atmospheric horror surges forward until Ana is caught up in uncertainty about the meaning and purpose of her life as well as the environmental apprehension. 

I can't really say anything else about the plot without giving things away but it definitely takes an even weirder turn than I initially expected. If you want a break for something unusual with relatable characters, creeping dread, and an epilogue that is the epitome of a sad smile, then Nestlings should be the next pick off your TBR.

Published September 10, 2021 by Omnium Gatherum The Scream Teens are hired to raise the dead as the necro-tainment for a zombie cruise, and ...

Guest Post || Accurately Portraying Mentally Ill Characters by Nzondi

Published September 10, 2021 by Omnium Gatherum

The Scream Teens are hired to raise the dead as the necro-tainment for a zombie cruise, and the eighteen-year-old animator, Cozy Coleman, is bitten by a shapeshifting she-wolf. To Cozy’s surprise, she survives and with the aid of her friends, helps the government stop a human-extinction virus from spreading. Unfortunately, Cozy uncovers a secret so haunting, that her death is only the beginning of her problems.

accurately portraying mentally ill characters

by Nzondi

13 Reasons Why tackled issues like suicide and bullying head on, yet still presented it in a way that got popular culture talking about these issues, which was the most important asset to helping real-life youths open up a dialogue with teachers, parents, and health professionals. In writing this article, I learned many things to do and not to do when writing about mental health issues. I recommend that all authors research these dos and don’ts before writing about any characters that have mental health issues.

As a horror writer, however, you may feel like your story is not there to preach, teach, or raise awareness. However, given the fact that there have been documented accounts of novels causing an increase in the rate of contagion, wouldn’t you want your literary themes to reflect a more accurate perspective?

Look, I get it. I’ve worked as a stand-in on a show called “How To Get Away With Murder,” and I have had many conversations with attorneys who say that the show is too sensational, especially in the courtroom. I’m like, “Thank goodness the creator of the show doesn’t depend on you to write their episodes. We’d be bored out of our minds!” They are the same people who can’t suspend disbelief long enough to get past the fact that when Bruce Banner changes into the Hulk, he’s always in those purple short-pants, instead of being nude.

We are writing fiction, aren’t we? We create a way for the reader to escape reality and travel to worlds of fantasy, science fiction, dystopia, and horror. Still, when writing about characters and stories involving mental health, shouldn’t we ask questions that breathe life into the “who, what, when, and how” of the tropes we use?

So how do we get it right?

Here are some facts to know about mental illness by Kathleen S. Allen, an author who also has a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree (which is a clinical doctorate):

  • Having depression doesn’t mean your character can’t still have fun or laugh or be social.
  • A character who has bipolar disorder may have manic episodes or they may not. Bipolar disorder has a spectrum of symptoms from moderate depression to severe.
  • No one who has Dissociative Identity Disorder (formerly called split personality) would kill someone when they are in one of their alter personality states unless the core personality would also kill.
  • Your character would not have amnesia after killing someone. The disorder is rare, and some medical professionals don’t believe it exists at all, so be careful using it.
  • Talking about suicide does not mean your character will push the person into attempting suicide. It was already on their mind.
  • Your characters don’t stop hearing voices immediately after taking anti-psychotic medication.
  • Sometimes, they won’t stop at all. It may take weeks to months for the meds to work. If they are having a psychotic episode, it would be difficult, if not impossible, to function in their daily lives by going to school, work, maintaining a romantic relationship, or maintaining any relationship. Psychotic patients are not dangerous. Are there exceptions? Yes. But as a general rule, they aren’t.
  • In conclusion, one of my biggest takeaways from researching horror writing for Mental Health Awareness Month was some of the things we shouldn’t do.
  • For example, unless your character is politically incorrect, don’t describe suicide as an “epidemic”, “skyrocketing,” or other exaggerated terms.
  • Use words such as “higher rates” or “rising.” Don’t describe suicide as “without warning” or “inexplicable.”
  • Do convey that the character exhibited warning signs.
  • Don’t refer to suicide as “unsuccessful” or “failed attempt,” or report it as though it were a crime. Do say, “died by suicide,” “killed him/herself,” and instead of presenting the act like a crime, write about suicide in your story as a public health issue.
Hopefully, as horror authors, we can continue to scare the jeebies out of our readers, but at the same time, create a story which accurately exhibits archetypes of mentally ill characters, whether they are mad scientists, psychopathic serial killers, or characters with dissociative identity disorders that assume their mother’s personality.

Born Acemandese Nzondi Hall on the Fourth of July, Nzondi (Ace Antonio Hall) is an American science fiction/horror author, singer and songwriter. He is the first African-American to win a Bram
Stoker Award in a novel category for his young adult book, Oware Mosaic. A former English teacher and Director of Education for NYC schools and the Sylvan Learning Center, Nzondi earned a BFA from Long Island University. Crossroad Press reprinted his novel Oware Mosaic in 2023. His zombie novel, Lipstick Asylum, (Omnium  Gatherum Media, 2021) and his other works can be
found on his website: AAntonioHall (dot) com..