Diary of the Damned: A Sequel to the Haunting Season

diaryofthedamned“Allison said that, in time, he’d come for you. For what it’s worth, Evy, I believe her.” 
Evy Breen has worked hard to forget her past. She’s changed her appearance and moved from her hometown of Bowling Green, Kentucky, to Knoxville, Tennessee, where she does her best to fit in. 
Evy’s past catches up with her when she finds a package on her apartment doorstep. The package has no postmark, no return address. Inside is a note… and the diary of Evy’s missing best friend, Allison. 
The diary contains everything about their friendship, the bullying they endured, and Allison’s confinement at a psychiatric hospital for schizophrenia. Except Allison wasn’t schizophrenic. Allison was suffering from demonic possession. 
According to the note, that same demon now has its sights set on Evy. The mysterious sender claims that, despite sliding into madness and depression, Allison inserted clues into her diary that might save Evy’s life. 
As Evy reads her friend’s diary, she discovers secrets that Allison kept from her—the incidents surrounding the gruesome death of a former classmate and the truth behind a government agency more interested in embracing a demon than in exorcising it. 
If Evy is to survive, she must return home. There, she must confront a life she prefers to forget and fight off an ancient and powerful demon set on revenge—if only she can decipher the clues her friend left behind.

Way back in 2011… wait, that can’t be right… only 5 1/2 years? So yeah, the time frame doesn’t really matter, what does matter is that in 2011 I was introduced to the writing of Michelle Muto by winning a little book titled, The Book of Lost Souls. I’m still waiting for Ivy and gang to make a reappearance, but until then, I’ve managed to read everything else this author has written. Which by the way, covers a fairly wide range. It all started with witches, warlocks, werewolves, vampires and more wrapped up in a sweet young adult read with a touch of evil and danger and a few surprises in between (The Book of Lost Souls). Heartbreak, tough issues including teen suicide that ends in a surprising ray of hope (Don’t Fear the Reaper). Then there were Gargoyles in Of Shadow and Stone. There was also an anthology thrown into the mix that ended in a tear jerker that I still haven’t quite forgiven the author for (Nature’s Fifth Season). Which leads us to the horror of The Haunting Season. If you’re reading this review and you haven’t read The Haunting Season, don’t read Diary of the Damned until you do. That sage warning is mostly because a lot of what happens in Diary of the Damned won’t make sense unless you’ve read The Haunting Season first. So, now that I’ve gotten all that out of the way…

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from Diary of the Damned. I mean, I knew it would be scary. That was a given. It is, after all, a sequel to one of the scariest books I’ve read in a while. (FYI- I like reading an occasional horror story, but it is most definitely NOT my go-to genre. In other words, I’m a wimp.) What I should have expected, but still took me totally off guard, was the emotion. There are parts of this book that broke my heart for both Evy and Allison. This book made me forget how much I really disliked Allison through much of The Haunting Season. (Again, you really have to read that book first to really get it. – Trust me.)

There were characters in this book that I wanted to hug and comfort, but there were just as many that I wanted to scream at in defense of the characters that I wanted to hug. Yeah, did I mention that there were emotions? Lots and lots of emotions. There were some crazy teenage bullies, but honestly, I wasn’t much more impressed with the adults that should have been there for these kids. As usual, the author slipped in some important life lessons within the scary pages. On a side note, there were a lot of characters in The Haunting Season that the author could have chosen to tell their story. Allison wasn’t the main character, but she was an integral one. Her story was important and I’m really glad that readers were treated to not only her diary but introducing them to someone who really cared about her.

In a nutshell, pick up The Haunting Season if you haven’t. If you have, Diary of the Damned should be next on your reading list. It’s not quite as scary as The Haunting Season, but I still only read it during the day.

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Into the Hollow (Experiment in Terror #6) by Karina Halle

IntoTheHollowPerry Palomino has fought her demons – and won – but the battle is far from over. She’s now left broken and on her own, leaving behind her life and family in Portland to focus on giving Dex Foray – and the Experiment in Terror show – a second chance. But their past mistakes continue to tease and test their relationship, as does the wild and desolate terrain of the Canadian Rockies.
The snow-covered peaks and ravenous forests hide an urban legend too unbelievably frightening to be true and the only way the duo has a chance of surviving is if Perry can let in the very man who sent her to hell and back.

It definitely says something about a series when you finish one book and immediately purchase the next… (sometimes even BEFORE you finish 😉 )

I think it goes without saying that I absolutely love this series. It’s smart, sexy and absolutely scares the pants off me. I’m not a huge fan of horror, but when you throw Dex and Perry into the mix, how can I resist?

Dex definitely had his work cut out for him in Into the Hollow. Not only is his job on the line, but, more importantly, his relationship with Perry. He knows she has a right to hate him, but he had his reasons for acting the way he did. He uses the opportunity of them being alone to his advantage. He needs to convince her that he loves her and always has, but there’s the little obstacle of a real life monster that gets in the way.

There are a lot of reasons why this book is my favorite in the series so far. Both Dex and Perry’s feelings are raw and the hurt is fresh. The danger is crazy because they’re battling the weather and terrain, their feelings, a monster and at least one crazy person. I have to admit that even though I understood Perry’s reluctance, Dex won me over a lot faster than he won over Perry and that kind of frustrated me. Maybe it was being in Dex’s head in the Dex Files where readers got a glimpse into what Dex had gone through up until the beginning of Into the Hollow. Whatever the reason I was ready for Perry to give him a chance. *sigh*

Both Perry and Dex went through unmistakable changes in their trip through the veil and there are more consequences to that than even they know. They came a long way by the end of Into the Hollow, but they still have a long way to go. Stay tuned for reviews for Come Alive and Ashes to Ashes, as well as the Dex’s last novella, And With Madness Comes the Light. Yeah, I’m a little behind in my reviews, but once I got going, I couldn’t stop 😉 DragonFlyRating5

 

Old Blood (Experiment in Terror #5.5) & The Dex Files (Experiment in Terror #5.7) by Karina Halle

Old Blood

A haunting novella from the Experiment in Terror Series…
From her harrowing introduction in Darkhouse, the spectre known as “Creepy Clown Lady” has been a constant fixture in Perry Palomino’s life. But beyond the horrid makeup and piercing stare lies Pippa, a woman just like everyone else.
Well, not quite.
When Perry discovered Pippa’s message to her and Dex on the EVP recordings, she thought she heard the last of the old woman’s message. She was wrong. In the novella Old Blood, Pippa relays the tale of her troubled and tortured past, revealing how an aspiring actress and loving mother fell into madness and how an unfathomable betrayal led to her untimely death.
For Perry, the repercussions of her message are life-shattering.
Old Blood is #5.5 in the series and occurs between books #5 On Demon Wings and #6 Into the Hollow

Okay, so I really didn’t think I could dislike Perry’s mother any more than I did when I started this novella, but I was wrong. I also didn’t think that I’d miss the Crazy Clown Lady if Perry and Pippa managed to get rid of her, but I was wrong about that too. Don’t yell, because there’s not a whole lot more I can say about Pippa, Perry, her mother and Dex without giving something away. 😉

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TheDexFiles

The Dex Files

The truth is out there…
The Dex-Files is a compilation novel that accompanies the Experiment in Terror Series and is not to be-read as a stand-alone. In the Dex-Files we find a variety of scenes and chapters from the enigmatic Dex Foray’s POV from books #1-6 in the series. Some of these scenes have been previously published, albeit from Perry’s POV, while other scenes are completely new.
In addition to it not being a stand-alone, the novel also contains some major spoilers and should be read only by those who have read all the published books in the series.
Book #1 – Darkhouse
*Lighthouse Meeting
*Pie Scene
*Jenn and Dex
Book #2 – Red Fox 
*Bar Scene – extended
*Playing Nurse
Book #3 – Dead Sky Morning
*Strippers
*Truth or Dare
*Tent Scene
Book #4 – Lying Season
*The Big Question
*The Xmas Party
Book #5 – On Demon Wings
*A Phone Call
Book #6 – Into the Hollow
*Bailout

Oh Dex… Dex, Dex, Dex… By the end of Lying Season, I wasn’t sure whether I was more frustrated with how Perry handled things or Dex. I wanted to hug them both as much as I wanted to knock some sense into them. After being in Dex’s head for just a little while in each book, I fell in love with the crazy guy. There was a lot revealed in these short little snippets, so take my advice and don’t skip them as you read through the series. And please, don’t read them before you’ve gotten to On Demon Wings. I did read it before I picked up Into the Hollow, but that was actually kind of helpful. What happens in Bailout kind of leads into Into the Hollow.

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On Demon Wings (Experiment in Terror #5) by Karina Halle

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When the life you wanted has crumbled beneath your fingers, there’s nothing left to do but pick up the pieces and soldier on. You’ve done this before.
But what happens when you no longer feel like yourself anymore? When fires spontaneously start-up around you, when you hear growling coming from underneath your bed, and you no longer recognize your face in the mirror. What happens then?
Ghost-hunter Perry Palomino doesn’t have much time to find out. Now, the evil she used to hunt is a lot closer to home. It’s inside of her, taking over her life bit-by-terrifying bit, and there’s only one person who can help her.
If part of her doesn’t kill him first.

So, it’s been a while since I read this book, but my initial reaction still stands… I thought that the last book ended in a cliff hanger? Yeah, right…. It seems that Karina Halle just can’t leave well enough alone…

Perry isn’t in a good place throughout much of this book. She’s trying to put up a good front and be everything to everyone that they expect her to be, but it isn’t working. She desperately wants to get over Dex, but that’s easier said than done. She’s not quite sure who she can trust and who she can’t and the ‘ghosts’ from the past aren’t helping.

A couple of mysteries are solved in On Demon Wings, but nothing is quite resolved. Those people that she should trust totally aren’t quite the people she thought they were and there are a few new dangers coming from unexpected places. It takes a while for Dex to make an official appearance in this one, but once he does… yeah, did I mention that there is a cliff hanger?

There are two novellas between On Demon Wings and Into the Hallow, which I’ll be reviewing next. I’ll give you the same recommendation that was given to me… don’t skip the novellas! They may be short, but they’re packed full of little tidbits that add much more than expected to the series.

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Maze of Souls (Ellie Jordan, Ghost Trapper #6) by J.L. Bryan

MazeofSoulsIt’s October, and down at newly opened Pine Hollow Farm, the ghosts are running wild! This “genuine” old-time family farm offers a big heap of fun fall activities. You can drink cider fresh from the orchard, enter a pumpkin-carving contest, and explore the five-acre corn maze. At night, if you aren’t too scared, join the haunted hayride through the woods, featuring a genuine eighteenth-century cemetery. According to local legend, the ghost of a horseman has ridden the old dirt road through the woods for nearly two centuries, menacing travelers. Hayriders beware!
Then the real ghosts start to come out, threatening visitors to the farm and the family who live there. Paranormal detective Ellie Jordan travels out to the remote farm to root out the dangerous spirits. Ellie and her assistant Stacey must move fast, because the night is coming when all ghosts will be at full strength and free to roam—the night of Halloween.

CreativeDeedsReadsDisclosure1So, it’s now officially Spring… and this book is set in October, but honestly, there’s no time set in stone to read a scary story, especially if it’s part of the Ellie Jordon, Ghost Trapper series.

As readers have come to expect from this series, there really isn’t any down time in Maze of Souls. A lot happens in this book. More than a few of those things Ellie and crew aren’t prepared for. Between the emotional moments and the scary moments, Maze of Souls may be my favorite installment in this series so far.

Ellie’s world is about to change and she’s not ready for it. She’s feeling abandoned by someone she’s close to, whether it’s logical or not, that’s how she feels. Her boyfriend semi-ignores her through a lot of the story and there are kids involved in the haunting she’s investigating, which is never a good thing. Throw in a hormonal, moody teenager and some seriously powerful ghosts and you have a story that pretty much covers it all.

There were also a few interesting twists in Maze of Souls that I never saw coming… at least not all of them. In the end (no spoilers, I promise) Ellie has to make a decision that leaves more than one person hanging in the balance. I almost forgot how good J.L. Bryan is at throwing his characters into situations that leave them just a little bit broken. (That’s an understatement in some cases – Jenny Pox (The Paranormals, #1) ) Needless to say, I’m hoping the next book can’t come soon enough.

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The Lying Season (Experiment in Terror #4) by Karina Halle

LyingSeasonAmateur ghost-hunter Perry Palomino has battled ghosts, fought off skinwalkers and skirted the fine line between life and death. But can she survive bunking down in Seattle for a week with her partner (and man she secretly loves) Dex and his perfect girlfriend, Jennifer? And can she do so while being tormented by a malicious spirit from Dex’s increasingly shady past? With love and life in the balance, Perry must discover the truth among the lies or risk losing everything she’s ever cared about.

I spent a lot of time in Lying Season not quite sure how I felt about Perry. For the record, that’s nothing new when it comes to this series. It’s not that I don’t like her, it’s more like I don’t really understand her. She does some really sketching things in Lying Season… but they’re for the right reasons… kinda, Dex, on the other hand… I gained a whole new insight on him. He kind of broke my heart just a little bit.

Lying Season dealt a lot more with Perry and Dex than actually delving into a spooky mystery. That doesn’t mean that there weren’t some spine chilling moments… like gaining a whole new respect for wasps. *shivers* Readers were also ‘treated’ to experiencing Dex and Jennifer together… (can you hear the sarcasm from there?) Jennifer was, well… you’ll have to ‘meet’ her to totally understand. Let’s just say that regardless of how I felt about Perry and Dex’s little tryst in Dead Sky Morning, by the end of Lying Season I was all for Perry and Dex being together. (For the record, that little tryst didn’t bother me so much as it gave me hope.) Even though they seem to try to sabotage that happening every single time. *sigh*

As much was revealed in Lying Season as new mysteries were brought up. Readers learned a little bit more about Dex’s past as well as Perry’s. Not enough to be satisfying though. Most of the revelations just made me want to know more.  Also, things were really left hanging for both of them at the end. And that’s where my reading procrastination comes in really handy. I don’t have to wait to pick up On Demon Wings. As a matter of fact, I loaded it on my Kindle by the time I was half-way through Lying Season. Right after that I also picked up Old Blood and The Dex Files because I was told NOT to miss the novellas in between the main novels.

 

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Dead Sky Morning (Experiment in Terror #3) by Karina Halle

DeadSkyMorningWith the Experiment in Terror show finding some success, amateur ghost hunters Perry Palomino and Dex Foray embark on their most terrifying investigation yet. A tiny, fog-shrouded island in the rough strait between British Columbia and Washington State has held a dark secret for decades: It was a former leper colony where over forty souls were left to rot, die and bury each other. Now a functioning campground, Perry and Dex spend an isolated weekend there to investigate potential hauntings but as the duo quickly find out, there is more to fear on D’Arcy Island than just ghosts. The island quickly pits partner against partner, spiraling the pair into madness that serves to destroy their sanity, their relationship and their very lives.

Do you enjoy snarky characters? How about smart, witty characters with low self esteem? Maybe an ‘on again/off again’ forbidden romance floats your boat. If you can also handle more than a few ‘pee your pants’ worthy scary moments then Experiment in Terror is the series for you.

Okay, I may be exaggerating a little, but not much. Dex is probably my favorite character in this series, but I admit he drives me nuts sometimes. There’s obviously a lot more to him than readers have been clued in on so far, so I’m willing to cut him some slack. Perry on the other hand… Since this book is told totally by her POV, readers spend a lot of time in her head, which is both good and bad. I like Perry, but I spent a lot of time reading Dead Sky Morning wanting her to get some backbone, tell Dex what was really going on and gain a little… something. *sigh*

As for the story… saying I loved it would be admitting that I like having the crap scared out of me. Although I love nature, I wouldn’t call myself the ‘out-doorsy’ type. Even so, this book pretty much guaranteed that there will be no camping whatsoever in my immediate future. I may not be reading any history books that detail events that happened in my local area either. Just to be safe. I think it probably goes without saying that Karina Halle has a rather disturbing knack for bringing the past alive and not in a very good way. *shivers*

Aside from my obvious character issues, I’m loving this series. Although I’m sorry I started late, I have the advantage of not having to wait for the next book. Which is a very good thing. Even though Dead Sky Morning didn’t end in a cliff hanger, it definitely left me wanting more. I’ll still wait just a little while to pick up Lying Season to give myself a couple of nightmare free nights. 😉

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Red Fox (Experiment in Terror #2) by Karina Halle

RedFoxIn the for­got­ten town of Red Fox, New Mex­ico, a Navajo cou­ple is tor­tured by things unseen and by motives unknown. Wild ani­mals slink through their house in the dark, a bar­rage of stones pound their roof nightly, and muti­lated sheep car­casses are turn­ing up on their prop­erty. Armed with a cam­era and just enough to go on, Perry and Dex travel to the des­o­late locale, hop­ing to film the super­nat­ural occur­rences and add cred­i­bil­ity to their flail­ing web­cast. Only their show has a lot more work­ing against them than just grow­ing pains. Tested by dubi­ous ranch hands, a ghost from Dex’s past, and shape shift­ing decep­tion, the ama­teur ghost hunters must learn to trust each other in order to fight the most ancient of myths…or die trying.

I’m not ashamed to say that this book scared the crap out of me. I had to keep reminding myself that there are 9 books in the Experiment in Terror series, so Dex and Perry were reasonably safe. The more I read, the more I had to keep reminding myself of that fact.

Red Fox begins just a little while after Darkhouse ends. Their first webcast has broadcast and they can’t let any grass grow under their feet before they start the next one. Perry has even more riding on its success now than ever and her only ally in her new career path is Dex. Trust is kind of tough when both parties keep things hidden from each other. That just adds to the tension built in this story.

I love stores based on mythology and Native American legends are some of my favorites. That aspect of this story totally drew me in and didn’t let go even when things got seriously dark. From the time they entered Red Fox, Dex and Perry were in danger. The biggest problem they faced, other than trying to survive, was that they had no idea who they could and couldn’t trust. No one was exactly what they seemed, so they had no idea where the real danger was coming from. Then, it got worse.

Regardless of how scary these books are, I know that I won’t be able to stay away. Beyond the danger that Dex and Perry put themselves in, there’s also the romantic tension between them. Since the books are told from Perry’s POV readers know exactly where her feelings lie, but Dex is a mystery. He’s unstable, mentally and emotionally. One minute he acts like he cares about Perry as much as she does for him and the next he’s distant and professional. It’s driving me nuts, and I totally love it.

Dead Sky Morning is up next and it’s already ready and waiting for me. 😉

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Inferno Park by J.L. Bryan

InfernoParkCarter was only twelve when he witnessed the disaster that killed more than a hundred people at Starland Amusement Park. Five years later, Carter’s hometown is no longer a busy Florida panhandle resort, but a slowly dying town full of empty motels and attractions rusting behind chains and padlocks.

Now something evil stirs in the ruins of the old amusement park…something with an alluring siren song drawing visitors into the dark mysteries of the forbidden world behind the gate. Something with an appetite for restless, yearning souls. 

Carter reluctantly returns to the old park in the company of a new girl in town, who is obsessed with urban decay and pop-culture ruins, and discovers the evil at work. To stop it, and protect the children of the town, Carter will have to face his oldest and deepest fears.

CreativeDeedsReadsDisclosure1You know when you watch a scary movie and you yell at the stupid characters to not go in that abandoned house, not look out the window into the shadows, not to leave their safe and warm bed to see what was making that eerie noise outside? Then, when they do it anyway, you cover your eyes and hope that they aren’t going to end up dead… or worse? Yeah, I spent a lot of time mentally yelling at the characters in this book. If I could have closed my eyes I would have, but that would have made it kind of difficult to read.

It came as no surprise to me that J.L Bryan did scary well. That’s actually part of the reason why I drug my feet in finally reading Inferno Park. His vivid descriptions and his talent at making readers squirm is evident in both his dark Paranormals series and his lighter Songs of Magic series. I had no doubt that the same vivid descriptions and attention to detail would take the horror factor in Inferno Park over the top. I wasn’t disappointed.

Besides spending a lot of time trying to mentally coax characters into doing the smart thing and stay away from the creepy abandoned amusement park, I enjoyed the story and the characters. Carter was a sweet kid at 12 and had grown into an impressive teen. He was pretty level headed as well as compassionate. He could have easily given up, especially with all he had been through. He had a goal to work his way out of town and for a lot of reasons, he took it very seriously.

Victoria was great too. I think I liked her most for bringing a spark back into Carter’s life. She shook things up. I liked her outlook and the unique way she looked at things.

As for the story itself… it was intense. No, the author held nothing back. The gore, the terror and the suspense were all there. Thankfully, there were tiny breaks in the in those moments where things seemed almost normal. There were even a couple of moments that made me smile, but not a lot of them. The different POVs that were divided between most of the characters gave the story a different kind of flow. I liked it. Well, ‘like’ may not be the correct word since most of those POVs didn’t end well…. but you get the idea.

No one came out of this one totally unscathed and there was more than one moment where I wanted to read ahead just to make sure that everyone made it out alive… but I didn’t… and you shouldn’t either. If you’re looking for something scary to read with an intriguing story line, Inferno Park is perfect.

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Unseen by J.L. Bryan

UnseenCassidy is a young tattoo artist living in the Little Five Points neighborhood of Atlanta. She’s always suffered terrible nightmares, and sometimes the hideous creatures seem to follow her out of her dreams and into her waking life, though she’s the only one who can see them. Drugs and alcohol can blot them out, but never entirely chase them away.

When a demonic cult begins to take control of the people in her life, including her younger brother, Cassidy discovers that the unseen world of monsters is very real. She can no longer avoid it. To protect those she loves, she must accept her own hidden supernatural talents and face the forces of evil before the sinister cult achieves its twisted goals and casts the world into darkness.

Let me just say that I have never picked up a J.L Bryan book that I CreativeDeedsReadsDisclosure1didn’t like. He’s made me laugh out loud with his whimsical and light Songs of Magic series. His Paranormals series was intense, heartbreaking and brought with it a powerful message. Then there was Nomad that took readers on a scary and intense trip through time. I thought J.L. Bryan had pulled out all the stops with his previous books. I thought I knew what I was in for when I picked up The Unseen. Not. Even. Close.

Okay, I have to be honest here. When I first started reading The Unseen I really wasn’t sure I was going to like it. I expected the horror… that is the genre after all. I didn’t expect the author to hold back in the details. Whether beautiful or violent, being hesitant or ‘careful’ just isn’t this author’s style. What held me back were the characters. I just couldn’t connect with them. Then, as the layers of the story were revealed, some mysteries were solved and secrets were exposed I understood. My whole feeling about Cassidy and her family and friends changed. Once I reached that point there was no turning back. I couldn’t put The Unseen down and before I knew it, the story was over. Wow!

This is not a book for the faint of heart. Like I said, J.L. Bryan is not known for holding back and he definitely pulled out his entire arsenal in The Unseen. It was intense, scary, violent and graphic. It also had very layered, smart, witty and interesting characters that were reckless but loyal, crazy but brave and more than enough bad guys to keep things interesting. It was definitely a wild ride, but I didn’t want it to end. As a matter of fact, my first response when I was finished was ‘it can’t be over!’ It didn’t end in a cliff hanger, things were wrapped up well, but I could tell that Cassidy’s story wasn’t quite finished. I don’t think it will be any time soon, but hopefully this is one character that J.L. Bryan will be bringing back. I want to know that they’re OK. I want to know what happens next. I want more! Thankfully J.L. Bryan agrees, so stay tuned.  😉

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