Category: horror

Title: The Ravenous

Author: Amy Lukavics

Age Group: Teen/Young Adult

Genre: Horror

Series: Standalone

Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

               I borrowed this book from my local library and reviewed it.

               When I finished the first book I’d ever read by her, Nightingale, a friend recommended The Women in the Walls, Lukavics’s first novel, and I read that. Right after I finished it, I ordered The Ravenous through my library’s interloan system. Since then, it’s been sitting on the top of my library stack, the creepy cover drawing me in. When I realized I was not able to renew it any more, I pushed it to the top of my stack to read after Big Lies in a Small Town. As soon as I finished, I dove in to The Ravenous, and it might be the most gruesome book I’ve ever read by Lukavics. Dark, terrifying, thoughtful and chilling, I loved The Ravenous! I love monster stories of every type, but zombies are one of my favorites; this might be my favorite of all of Lukavics’s work.

The Ravenous tells the story of the Cane family: their military father, who is overseas so much that his daughters barely remember life with him, her alcoholic, moody and distant mother. On the outside, they appear to have the perfect family, and no one reinforces that image more than the Cane sisters. But when a terrible accident happens, their mother uses desperation and a secret ritual in order to bring the youngest sister, Rose, back to life. But her sacrifice has awful, unforeseen consequences: Rose is alive, but not quite. After returning from the dead, she develops a terrible craving for human flesh. When their mother disappears, in search of a permanent cure, the sisters are forced to take care of Rose themselves. But helping their sister may cost them their very souls…

I loved, loved, loved this book! The prose was permeated with suspense and dread, as sharp and cutting as knives. This book was terrifying, chilling, and had a killer ending (pun fully intended, sorry not sorry!)! I finished this book in less than two days, and I’m still stunned by the ending. I was instantly spellbound, hypnotized by the spare, sparse prose. The words were invoked with such a sense of dread. I love monster stories, but especially monster stories full of blood, gore, and body horror! The Cane family was such a strange facsimile of perfect; from the outside, they looked like a well-knit family. But on the inside, they were all falling apart: Mona, the middle sister, has crippling alcoholism, Juliet trying her best to hold the family together, even if it means murder, and Taylor becomes a clone of Juliet, trying not to anger her oldest sister. And there’s Anya, more into her books and her girlfriend, Everly, than her sisters. Rose, though, is the glue that holds the family together, and the Cane sisters must do unthinkable in order to keep her. And that ending! Oh, my goodness, I just finished it last night and I’m still floored over it. I can’t get it out of my head! The Ravenous is my favorite of Amy Ludavics’s work, and I loved it so much! I can’t wait to read the rest of her work! The bottom line: Dark, chilling, and so scary you’ll sleep with the lights on after! Next on deck: To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han!

(IP) The Horned Menace

were rumors of a creature who terrorized villages, with long, wickedly pointed
horns and eyes that glowed like flaming coals. It was vaguely humanoid in
shape, but for the claws on its hands and feet.

               But the
whispers were eventually proven true: livestock and crops were dying
mysteriously, and more than one villager had disappeared, both in town and
within the wood that kept the village hidden.

               For her
part, Flora thought that it was all stuff and nonsense; she was certain that
there was a logical explanation for all of these events, and that everyone was
just frightened of their own imaginations.

               She was
working in the pub down the street from where she lived, and all everyone would
talk about was ‘the horned menace’. The latest person to have disappeared was
the town crier, and they’d lost their news in the morning as a result.

was no real proof, but science was foreign to her fellow villagers, especially
a girl.

you have more feminine duties to attend to, Flora? Some mending, perhaps, or
needlework? Maybe you’d be better off with your mama, at least until you’re of
marrying age.

matter how many times she said that it was an education she wanted, just like a
man, she was always laughed at. Her cheeks were always burning; no one ever took
her seriously, saying that her parents had spoiled her beyond measure.

               An idea
formed in Flora’s mind: a crazy, half-formed idea that could pan out or mean
her ruin.

               A soft
voice sounded in the back of Flora’s mind. Ruined? In their eyes, you
already are. Where’s the harm in actually giving them something to talk about?


Her mind made up, Flora counted
down the seconds until the sun set, and she was relieved. Slipping a fat sack
of coins into her apron, she walked out of the building, going over the things
she needed mentally, again and again.

flint, oil, firewood, a cask of watered wine, a crust of bread, a bit of good,
salty cheese. And the heart she would harvest in order to lure the beast into
the wood, where she would kill it. She couldn’t let herself think about the

               But it
wasn’t the village’s safety that was on Flora’s mind; no, she was braving the
night for entirely selfish reasons. And anyway, it was difficult to care for
those who’d cared so little for her. She’d been sentenced as odd, strange, an
interloper. She would’ve been blind not to see it.

wanted to see if this beast was real, if the whispers of magic gone awry were
true, or if the shadows that lurked within people’s minds had somehow been
given life.

went back to the hovel that was her home, a ramshackle, decrepit affair.

Flora found herself wondering if she was going to slay the beast, all to win
the approve of people who had never wanted her.

               But her
choice had been made. She would find the truth, no matter the cost.


(WP) Dark Offerings

               He was
the seventh son of a seventh son, and as such, he’d inherited the dark and
inevitable sentence that came with one of the village’s farmers.

               He and
his family grew food, but it wasn’t just them responsible for it. They’d made a
pact with a dark, unknowable creature who rejoiced in bloodshed, pain, and
death. It had begun with their first ancestor, and as far as Silas knew, no one
had ever tried to break the deal.

dug into his ancestors’ records, searching for a way out, and he’d never been
successful at finding one.

               So, as
awful and ugly as his duty was, Silas had no choice but to carry it out.

tried with animals, with things that people wouldn’t miss, but the beast’s true
craving was for flesh, the fresher the better.

latest victim was Katerina Van Horne, a young maiden who had planned to marry
the mayor’s son and eventually rule the town by his side. She was truly lovely,
and not for the first time, Silas felt shame heat his face. Her hair was in a
long plait down her back, and the setting sun made it shine like rose gold. She
was blindfolded; Silas thought it too cruel, for the sacrifices to face their
fate head on.

better that no one knew. He’d been charged with keeping the village’s secrets,
and he would take them to the grave.

sorry,” Silas whispered, more to himself than to Katerina. “I’m so sorry.”

               He left
the field, unable to watch. During those first few years, Silas had hidden
somewhere and watched; his curiosity had gotten the better of him, and he’d
regretted it immediately afterward.

               He hadn’t
been able to get the image out of his mind: a rail-thin man, with red eyes and
pale skin, and the man’s hair was even darker scarlet than Katerina’s. But that
hadn’t been the monster’s true form, and Silas knew it; even now, the façade flickered
like fire.

young woman’s screams began and didn’t seem to end; after what felt like an
eternity, silence fell, as deafening as the death screams were a few minutes

death, another month gone; Silas felt sickened by his own feeling of relief. It
was over.

found himself wondering if this would be the rest of his existence: collecting
innocent townsfolk to sacrifice to the local monster; he felt dirty.

               But how
could he turn on his family’s legacy, regardless of how dark it was?

monster slunk back into the corn, disappearing among the plants, and Silas let
out a breath he didn’t realize he was holding. He’d long ago given up on
unbinding his line from the creature, but he couldn’t shake the feeling that he
was close to a breakthrough. There were generations of records, books, and more
unsavory things that Silas didn’t want to have to look into.

this was his lot in life, taking life in order to give it.

               Maybe it
was too late to fight it.


(WP) A Faustian Bargain

finally Friday, and after a twelve-hour shift, I’m happy to head home. Maybe I’ll
buy dinner on the way, and my stomach grumbles angrily, as if in agreement with
my thoughts.

when I get into my car, I can’t shake the feeling that someone is watching me,
and that feeling persists, all the way to the highway. I make it to a diner, and
instead of going home, I get out of the car, tempted by the aroma of food in
the air.

where do you think you’re going, son?” A voice sounds behind me, and I turn:
There’s a well-dressed man sitting in my passenger’s seat, his eyes glowing
like bright rubies.

               I growl
under my breath, and the man laughs, amused by my rage. He has dark hair and a
goatee, as well as a smile so bright it’s blinding.

you really think that you could renege on our deal? It’s been almost twenty
years.” He continues, eyes narrowed at me. “I’ve given you everything you have,
in exchange for your immortal soul. And I’m not leaving without it.”

               For a
few minutes, I feel like I’m crazy; the deal he’s referring to, I thought it
was just a vivid dream. But Satan is sitting in my car, demanding his due.

               “To be
honest,” I say, looking into those bright red eyes, “I thought that it was a

Devil surprises me once more by laughing, so uproariously that tears stream
down his face.

thought it was a dream? You’re kidding, right? When right after that your life
suddenly became a movie?”

               I stare
at him, not understanding at first, but then the pieces all start to fall, one
by one.

beautiful model girlfriend, Verity, agreeing to marry me on a beach in Hawaii.
The promotion that came shortly afterward, and the birth of our children. The
Devil made this all happen? For real?

               “I came
to you in your dreams because mortals are vulnerable in them,” Satan says,
waving a hand dismissively. “I knew I’d never get your attention until I did
something drastic. Normally I send one of my flunkies to do all the paperwork
for me, but you, kid… You’re special. You’re practically a poster boy for Hell.”

               I stare
at him, nonplussed.

mean, I’ll have your soul at the end of it, but don’t tell me that your time on
Earth wasn’t fun.”

               He isn’t
wrong; I’ve been gifted so many different things, even if they did come from
the literal incarnation of evil. My family will be taken care of, and I won’t
have to worry about anything else.

               But is
it really worth an endless eternity in The Pit?

of how I feel about it, though, it’s happened. And obviously, I can’t get away
from this deal. The freaking Devil found me on the side of the road.

it really count, if you don’t remember?” I ask meekly, and something flickers
under his face, a glimpse of something dark, fanged and ugly.

               “We can
do this the easy way or the hard way, son. Your choice.”


Title: The Raven’s Tale

Author: Cat Winters

Age Group: Teen/Young Adult

Genre: Horror

Series: Standalone

Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

               I borrowed this book from my local library and reviewed it.

               A note for the sake of full disclosure before I start this review: I didn’t finish Kingdom of Souls. It felt like it was dragging on the whole time, so I reshelved it. Maybe I’ll go back to it later! Cat Winters is one of my favorite authors, so her latest book has been on my list since before it came out. The first time, I couldn’t read it before it went back to the library. But it’s been sitting at the top of my library stack, and as soon as I was finished with Kingdom of Souls, I dove in. The Raven’s Tale reimagines Edgar Allan Poe’s childhood and young adulthood, stifled under his cruel stepfather’s iron fist. Despite his dreams of being a writer, his stepfather demands that Edgar work toward more lucrative pursuits. But on the evening Edgar is set to go to university, a Muse named Lenore appears, promising him wealth, greatness, fame: everything he’s ever wanted. In exchange, she demands to be shone to the world. But will Edgar give in to his tyrant of a foster father, or make his dark, macabre dreams a reality?

               This book might be my favorite in Winters’s entire body of work; I remember being totally spellbound by EAP when I was younger, so this opportunity to have a fictional spotlight on him as a young man was awesome! The prose was gorgeous, and I loved the way that Winters actually incorporated Poe’s writing throughout. The pacing was breakneck, and I was totally riveted; I loved the way Winters talked about the arts, but especially writers. I also adored the way that she explained the complicated and dark relationship between Edgar and his dark muse, Lenore. Edgar’s voice was wry, humorous and melancholy, and I loved it. I also adored the other characters: Edgar’s lady love, Lenore, his parents. They provide a great foil for Edgar, brooding and at times even vicious. The tension was also crazy; there were several times that I had to walk away to take a few deep breaths. But Winter’s reimagining of one of the most prominent writers in the English canon was nothing less than fantastic, and I loved the way it paid tribute to him and the muse who inspired his work. The bottom line: Creepy, richly detailed, gorgeous and surprising, I loved The Raven’s Tale! Next on deck: The Fragile Ordinary by Samantha Young!

(WP) Idle Hands

               My last
summoning of the day is for my favorite couple. Of course, demons aren’t
supposed to have favorites; but there’s an exception to every rule, and this
couple is mine.

been answering their calls for years now, and it’s always been me that they’ve
summoned. I’ve never let another demon attend to them. Maybe it’s possessive
and wrong, but I can’t help it. Perhaps I possess a few lingering shreds of
humanity for those two.

               In any
case, once a quiet and quavering voice invokes my name, summoning me to the
circle, I gladly follow it, compressing the entirety of my being into a wave of
bright violet smoke.

               When I
become corporeal again, I find Mr. and Mrs. Danvers in their kitchen.

Danvers is on his knees, head thrust deep in under the sink.

damned faucet! I’ll never get it fixed at this rate!” He grumbles, his voice
echoing humorously; his wife stifles a girlish giggle.

Thom, I’ve a surprise for you!” Evelyn trills, and I grin, covering the
expression with my hand.

stands carefully, his spine creaking several times in protest. “What do you
mean, a surprise?”

               I grin,
stepping forward, out of the circle. “It’s wonderful to see you, Thom. And
Jane! You don’t look as though you’ve aged a day!”

laughs, the apples of her cheeks warming with a comely blush. It’s easy to see
the specter of her younger self when she does.

welcome back! You still smell the same. Like fire and brimstone and sulfur,”
Thom says, laughing, pumping my hand with surprising strength for his age.

can I get you something to eat?” Jane asks, and if it were anyone else asking
me that, I’d say no: We’re encouraged to indulge in humanity’s fleeting
offerings, but it’s not like me to partake.

you, Jane. As always, your hospitality is impeccable.”

smiles, waiting to tell me his problems until after I’m seated with an old
school lunch: a ham and cheese sandwich, topped with spicy mustard and Swiss
cheese, apples and peanut butter, and milk, two percent.

sink won’t stop leaking,” Thom says, hanging his head in defeat.

forget about the creaky stairs, the loose railing, and the broken window in the
attic!” Jane adds cheerfully, giving me an apologetic smile, as if I haven’t
been coming to help around the house for years on end now. “I do hope you don’t
mind; it’s just that we’re getting older.”

would I mind?” I ask. “It’s not like I have anywhere important to be.”

remember, briefly, the first time that this sweet, adorable couple summoned me
for aid: They’d broken the bed of the hotel they’d been honeymooning at, and had
somehow found a piece of parchment tucked under the mattress, scrawled with the
words to invoke me into their realm.

               I laugh
to myself. I might have lost my humanity centuries ago, but these two humans
bring out what’s left of it.

               And I
wouldn’t have it any other way.


(WP) Tortures of the Damned

you get to Hell, the last thing you expect is to see your stepdad, the coolest
man in the world, sitting atop its throne.

son, at long last, has come home!” He booms, standing up to greet and embrace

               “Dad? I
don’t understand. I don’t get what you’re doing here, much less why you’re—”

father, who is really your stepfather but raised you as his own, gives a great
boom of a laugh.

King of Hell?” He finishes, smirking; his face reminds you rather unpleasantly
of the cat after it ate the canary. “I was as shocked as you were, when I first
got here. Now I’ve got full run of the place!”

stare at him, your jaw on the floor. Growing up, he was your biggest role model;
you wanted to be just like him. He raced cars, treated your divorced mother
like royalty, was always kind and firm with you.

               So how
had he ended up here, of all places, in the afterlife?

question must show on your face, because he smiles, looking like his old self.

kiddo. There were things I did before I met you and your ma, things that I was
so ashamed of that I barely even told her anything.” There’s naked vulnerability
in his expression, something you’d never seen when he was alive.

here! Let me give you a tour of the place! God, your ma would’ve loved this
place, kiddo. Hotter than the damn desert on a sunny day in California.” He
laughs, and you follow him, eyes sweeping across the barren, fiery landscape of

father points to a firelit pit, thick with the stench of blood, tears, and

over there is The Pit,” He says, nodding over to it. “Fortunately, that honor
is reserved for some of the worst people to ever exist.” And I didn’t
he adds silently, his eyes narrowing to slits as he observes the
tortured and the damned.

area is so dark and shadowed you can’t make out that much; the only thing you
can really hear are screams and the insistent, vicious crack, crack, crack
of the whip. You make out the silhouette of a thick and stocky man with a
thinning, gray goatee and little, beady brown eyes.

Dad, isn’t that… Isn’t that…”

               “A certain
Hollywood movie producer who used his power to hurt unsuspecting young
ingenues?” Dad replies, smirking so hard that he can’t keep the wicked glee off
of his face. “Oh, yes. He may have escaped punishment in the mortal world, but
you can be sure that The King of Hell and his subject never forget.”

pleased as punch, and despite yourself, so are you. It does what’s left of your
soul good to see villains getting their just desserts.

Dad, you’ve done great for yourself in the afterlife. I mean, The King of Hell,
that’s really something.”

               “And it’s
all yours, kiddo. If I’m the King of Hell, then you’re its prince.”


(WP) The Elder God’s Bride

the King heard that his daughter, the princess, wanted to have her engagement
broken, he was aghast.

been betrothed to this man since before you were born, and now you’re telling
me that you’ve fallen in love with another? You’ll do your duty to this crown
and your family, or else.”

               The princess
looked up at her father, eyes narrowed, lips twisted in a stubborn pout.

I matter? Don’t I get a choice? You don’t even know who he is!”

the better, child.” The King grumbled. “I’ll not have my only child being
married off to a commoner—”

not common, Father! In fact, he is a god! He rules a land far away from here,
and I will be his bride! Please, I love him, he told me he’d give you and
Mother anything if you just gave him my hand in marriage—”

The King boomed. “I’ll meet this man, and then I will decide if I will break
your engagement to the Prince of the Night Queendom. Putting years of diplomacy
and chivalry at risk, all because of your selfishness.”

the princess thought this was a tad harsh. After all, times were becoming more
modern, and she didn’t belong to her father or her betrothed. She was her own
person, and she would choose the course of her life, her station be damned.
Without waiting to be dismissed, the princess fled, burning with anger.


beloved was waiting for her in her chambers; he’d told her that his power was
extraordinary and near incontrollable, and on this plane, he’d had no choice
but to take a vessel.

worry, my darling. You’ll see my true form after we are wed, after we return to
my dimension.”

               Of all
people, he’d chosen her childhood best friend, Jax Tarn, as his vessel. Even
now he sat on her bed, reading a book.

father says that he’ll only consider breaking the engagement to the prince if
he meets you and you impress him. But I don’t want to be married to a complete

princess had to resist the childish urge to throw a tantrum, to scream and
shout that it wasn’t fair, over and over again.

your father know this man?” He asked, gesturing to his own body, and the
princess smiled faintly.

               “Yes. His
name is Jax Tarn, a knight who has served my father for years.”

               “All we
have to do is explain the situation, and I’m sure he’ll agree. If he doesn’t, I’ll
just use my power to imprison him when we go home.” There was a faint note of
longing in his voice. “And if he still doesn’t agree, I’ll force him to watch
as we marry, and then I will give him to my children as an offering. It will be
all right, my love. You’ll see.”


(WP) Nighttime Wandering

               I live
in a town so small that it’s barely a blip on the map; there’s a single dirt
road out of town. There are two types of people who live here: the ones who
stayed, got married and started a family, and the ones who felt suffocated and
stifled. Every time I try to sleep, I hear the train squeal, rolling down
nonexistent tracks. There aren’t any train tracks here, either now or in the
past, that I know of.

               I fear,
at times, that I’m losing my mind: the train’s call echoes through my dreams,
beckoning me toward something I can’t see. It’s gotten so bad that I’ve taken
the time I usually sleep with to wander town, searching for answers. But I don’t
even know where to start.

               It’s in
the middle of the night, and it’s quite possible that I’m one of the few people
awake at this hour. The night is clear, the moon and stars staring down at me like
so many bright eyes.

               A voice
breaks the silence, unfamiliar, high and female. “Boy! What are you doing out
at this hour? You should be in bed!” I nearly jump out of my skin, and I turn
around, looking for the source of the sound.

there? What do you want?” I ask, and like water vapor, a woman shimmers into
being before me: a ghost, a girl who looks to be about my age, with dark skin
and blood crusted around a nasty gash in her forehead. She wears a dress and
bonnet straight out of the Colonial era, and her dark, beady eyes glare daggers
into me, pinning me in place.

               “I’ve come
to tell you to stop digging. It will only lead to sorrow for everyone involved.”

               “I don’t
understand,” I say, shaking my head in confusion.

you aren’t meant to. You’re a child!”

tells me that my mysterious new visitor knows more than she’s saying, and I
clench my jaw, just barely resisting the impulse to snap back at her that I
didn’t ask for any of this shit.

are you?” I ask finally, and she smiles, blushing prettily.

               “Just a…
friend. You shouldn’t be out at this hour, I’m sure your parents are worried

               “I can’t
stop hearing the train whistle,” I murmur at last, and as quickly as she
blushed, she goes pale, almost transparent. She’s fading, and I reach for her,
desperate for answers and for the unexpected company. “Wait! Please don’t go!”

must. Try to put the sound out of your mind. It will be better for you if you

are the spirit’s last words to me, and I’m left grasping at the cool night air.
But I can’t just forget, regardless of the ghoul’s words. And I realize, with an
unpleasant, itchy sensation of guilt, that I didn’t even ask how she’d died, or
how she’d gotten that awful wound on her forehead.

               In the
end, I’m left with even more questions than answers.


(WP) A Very Haunted Solstice

knew what the end of the year meant, and the solstice was nearly upon us. It
was a time of goodwill and togetherness, to be sure, but it was also a time of
darkness and damnation, where wraiths and shadows haunted everyone, restless ghosts
and ghouls gathering at the entrance to the village, pushing on the barriers in
hopes of getting to the living inside of it.

               It was
a frightening experience, but one that become less so after time passed. It was
fairly simple: leave offerings for the dead, and your home would be untouched.
Failure to do so often resulted in death, and messy ones, at that.

family, though poor, had decorated our cottage with holly berries and sprigs of
fragrant pine, and just to make doubly sure we would be all right, Papa kept
weapons of iron and salt close to the front door. Salt sprinkled our doorways
and windowsills like it had stormed within our home.

               By now,
the fear had died down to a mild panic; this was so routine I barely even noticed
it anymore. And all of my complaints had died on my tongue when I saw the
results that came from not heeding the legends. A young husband and wife had
recently moved into the village, and brushed off the legends as colorful local
history. But the Solstice came and went, and the newcomers didn’t come to the

was the one who went to check on them and found them on the floor, throats slit
from ear to ear, the modest house they’d had torn to shreds. Anxious he would
be cursed if he so much as touched the property, he’d left it to the elements,
even after the police came, took DNA, and cleaned it up. It was an abandoned
shack, and I couldn’t stop thinking about it, even after the Solstice.

               I was
sitting in an armchair by the roaring fire; the cold and damp made my bones
hurt and made walking even more difficult. Mama was working on baking the
treats and dinner, part of which we’d leave for the restless dead, and she
insisted I sit down and stay close. Ever since last year, neither I or my
brothers and sisters were allowed to leave home without a chaperone. Being
stuck in the house with little but housework to take our minds off of the dark
hour that was drawing nearer was making us all crazy.

little sister, Greta, stood in the kitchen with my mother, reaching up to help
stir the dough for the gingerbread. Though they’d just started, her rosebud
pout was covered in sticky brown dough; I snickered to myself.

brothers, twins named Gideon and Gabriel, were fighting over who could go get
the post from the traveling mailman, who rode through the villages on horses.

you boys quit squabbling?” Papa growled gruffly; his words thick around his
stout wood pipe. “You can both go get the mail, as long as I go with you. I won’t
have your sister out in this cold with her leg.”

winced, running a hand against my right leg. I twisted it ice skating when I
was little, and it had never set the same way again, leaving me crippled.

stay with Greta and Sabrina, and the boys and I will get the post.”

dear. Be safe. And stay close to your father, you two!”

               My brothers
exchanged a look I immediately recognized: those grins meant trouble, and I
wondered if they, too, were drawn to the old cottage.