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#TuesdayBookBlog A PLAGUE OF PAGES: A HORROR STORY FROM THE DEAD BOXES ARCHIVE by John F. Leonard (@john_f_leonard) #RBRT A fun and fast horror novella.

Dear all:

You might all have experienced the feeling that sometimes the stars align and everything comes together (yes, even when the results might be less than stellar). I had already agreed to read and review this novella when my friend and blogger extraordinaire Beetley Pete (he blogs about everything, from photography, his dog, his years as a paramedic, to book and film reviews), started sharing one of his serials, called, The Old RemingtonLet’s say that there are a few coincidences between the two story lines, although Pete’s is not a horror story, but… Anyway, go and check it out. Here is his story in full:

The Old Remington: The Complete Story

And now, I have another novella in the same collection and by an author a few of you will remember…

A Plague of Pages by John F Leonard
A Plague of Pages by John F Leonard

A Plague of Pages: A Horror Story from the Dead Boxes Archive by John F Leonard There is always a price to pay. A fun and fast horror novella.

Ah, the perils of writing …it can bring out the worst in you.
Anthony’s world has fallen apart. The good times have gone, the things he treasures have been torn away. Life in tatters, he needs to press the reset button and begin again. And that’s exactly what’s going to happen.
He’s going to pursue his dream of becoming a writer.
Trouble is, some dreams turn into nightmares.

Beautiful wife, successful business, plenty of cash. He had the lot. Until he didn’t have very much at all. It’s taken a while, but Anthony has finally discovered life is full of bastards and betrayal. Weary and washed out, a change of direction is just what the doctor ordered.
He wants to be a horror writer.
Write, and in the writing, redefine himself.
And again, that’s exactly what’s going to happen. He’s about to discover real horrors. The like of which are beyond comprehension. He could well get lost in his own stories.
Because some stories aren’t right. They aren’t just make-believe ink marks on a page.
There are worse things in the world than a little double-dealing and deceit. There are things that defy description and beggar the mind. Things that sit outside the walls of reality and scratch at the mortar between the bricks.
Sometimes they find a crack and worm their way through.

A PLAGUE OF PAGES is a tale of dangerous words and weird objects. The darkness of the human heart and a greater darkness that swims below the surface of what we happily call normal.
Occasionally the darkness pops up and swallows people whole.
It’s a cocktail of everyday evil and cosmic horror that will linger long after the last page is turned.
Maybe it will make you reconsider those unfulfilled ambitions, the stuff you always wanted to do and somehow never got round to. Like letting loose the frustrated writer inside you.
It might make you think twice about the items that slip under the radar. Those neglected trinkets stashed and forgotten in the loft or hidden away in dusty drawers.
Perhaps, only a possibility mind, it might make you wonder at the twisted symmetry we pass off as coincidence. The terrible, seemingly inexplicable events we dismiss as happenstance …and the thin dividing line between fact and fiction.

A Plague of Pages is an old school horror story, part of a series of sinister tales from the Dead Boxes Archive.
Some objects are inherently bad. No rhyme or reason, they’re just imbued with something that defines them as wrong. Inanimate and yet seething with dark, horrible energy. Bad to the bone baby. Bad to the bone.
Dead Boxes definitely fall into that category. Easy to miss. They don’t jump out at you. Not right away.
If you look a little closer, you’ll see something unique. You could have one and not know it.
Approach with caution.
They hold miracle and mystery. Horror and salvation.
None are the same. Except in one regard.
You don’t need one. You might think you do, but you really don’t.
Believe me.

A Horror Story
From the Dead Boxes Archive.

Links:

https://www.amazon.com/Plague-Pages-Horror-Story-Archive-ebook/dp/B07N7MPMGN/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Plague-Pages-Horror-Story-Archive-ebook/dp/B07N7MPMGN/

Author John F Leonard
Author John F Leonard

About the author:

John was born in England and grew up in the industrial Midlands, where he learned to love the sound of scrapyard dogs and the rattle and clank of passing trains.

He studied English, Art and History and has, at different times, been a sculptor, odd-job man and office worker. He enjoys horror and comedy (not necessarily together).

He has published six books. A Plague of Pages, Bad Pennies, Doggem, Call Drops, Collapse and 4 Hours, and is currently working on a number of projects which include more tales from the Dead Boxes Archive and the Scaeth Mythos, and new stories set in the ever evolving, post-apocalyptic world of Collapse.

https://www.amazon.com/John-F-Leonard/e/B01BHUE6Z6/

My review:

I write this review as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team (authors, if you are looking for reviews, check here), and I freely chose to review an ARC copy of this novella.

I recently read another one of Leonard’s stories from the Dead Boxes Archive, Call Drops (you can find my review here), thoroughly enjoyed it, and could not resist reading another one in the collection.

Much of what I said about the previous story applies to this one. Yes, if you love the Friday the 13th series, The Conjuring, The Twilight Zone, and Alfred Hitchcock Presents, you’re likely to enjoy this. But, this is horror, and this story, more than the previous one, goes into fairly gore detail.

I won’t spend too long rehashing the plot of the story, because if you’ve read the author’s description you already know what is about. Anthony is a man who’s lost everything (well, not quite everything, as it turns out), and decides to try his hand at writing. Well, we’ve all been there (not perhaps having lost everything, but thinking about becoming a writer). That he decides to go old school and use pen and paper is more surprising, but his father dealt in antiques, and he has an interesting heirloom to put to good use. Or bad. Of course, things take a turn for the weird soon enough.

The story is told in the third person, mostly from Anthony’s point of view, although, interspersed in the novella are some chapters that follow the investigation into a very strange streak of crimes. In fact, the book starts with one of the most bizarre crime scenes I’ve come across (and yes, I read a lot of thrillers, so that’s saying something). A word of warning: if you are of a sensitive nature, especially when it comes to libraries and librarians, you should look away. But don’t worry. I won’t describe it. Those chapters of the story, told from the point of view of Detective Sergeant Shadwell, Adi, read like a standard thriller, with the case-worn detective, the less than politically-correct policeman, the uninterested boss, and will probably feel familiar to those who read in that genre. Adi is a likeable character and shows a good deal of patience and resilience, but we don’t get to know him too well. This is a novella, after all, and most of it is taken up by Anthony’s events. You’ll probably suspect that the two seemingly separate parts of the story are interconnected in some way or other, even though the first chapter is set up “After the Handfield Tragedy” (yes, foreshadowing or what?) , and then we go back several months to get to the main action of the book. After that opening, we take up the story of Anthony, which starts innocuously enough, like many other stories you might have read about people who’ve lost everything and quickly fall into a hole, unable to find a way of slowing their downward spiral. But there is the pen, and strange things start happening quickly.

Although the story and the cards he has been dealt might make Anthony sound sympathetic, and he experiences things that would have made anybody feel unhinged, this feeling, at least for me, did not last long. Yes, he protested and claimed to be shocked for what he might have unwittingly caused, but it soon became evident that he showed no true empathy for anybody he met, and he was more preoccupied for himself and his own safety than for that of others. He seems to always think in clichés, platitudes, popular and old sayings, and proverbs, as if he did not have a single original thought in his head, and when we hear from his father, it seems that this is a family trait. As was the case in the previous story, it seems that the objects belonging to the Dead Boxes choose their owners well, indeed, and seem able to dig deep into the characters’ psyche and uncover less than flattering characteristics.

I enjoyed the story, although as was the case with the previous one, I wouldn’t recommend it to people who don’t enjoy horror or graphic violence. It is not a story likely to make you jump, but it builds up pace, and the events get more horrific as you read on (well, after the shocking start). The interim chapters from the point of view of the investigator (also written in the third person) give the reader a bit of a break, a touch of normalcy, although due to the nature of the crimes, this is relative.

I felt this novella is more likely to satisfy readers who like a sense of closure and explanation than Call Drops. We get more information about the item itself, and there are hints at the full mythos behind the Dead Boxes, which grabbed my attention.  And the ending… Well, readers have known from the beginning that something big was coming, but not necessarily what. Yes, it worked for me.

Because this is a short novella, I don’t want to share too many quotes from it because it would make it difficult not to give away too many spoilers, but I thought I’d close with this short one, which for me encapsulates a warning we should all pay attention to:

There was always a cost. That was how everything worked. Supernatural or humdrum day to day. It was all the same. You could get some goodies so long as you were willing to pay.

Leonard delivers again. I look forward to more stories from the Dead Boxes Archive.

Thanks to the author, to Rosie and all her team, thanks to you for reading, and remember to like, share, comment, click, review and always keep smiling!

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Book review Book reviews Rosie's Book Review Team Rosie's Book Team Review Tuesday Book Blog

#TuesdayBookBlog CALL DROPS by John F Leonard (@john_f_leonard) #RBRT A dark and creepy read with a twisted sense of humour

Hi all.

Today I bring you a short read that packs a punch.

Call Drops by John F Leonard
Call Drops by John F Leonard

Call Drops: A Horror Story by John F Leonard

Vincent likes nothing more than rootling round second-hand shops in search of the interesting and unusual. Items that are lost and forgotten.
Why not? He needs the diversion. Time on his hands and money to burn. His life is affluent and empty. Little on the horizon and memories tinged bittersweet.
That’s all about to change. He’s about to find something that is perhaps better left unfound.

CALL DROPS is a darkly swirling mix of horror and mystery that will stay with you long after the reading is done. It’ll maybe make you think twice about impulse buying, those moments when you simply must have something, even though you don’t need it.
It might cause you to look again at the apparently mundane and every day…and possibly, just possibly, wonder at what twisted marvels lurk within your mobile phone.

Call Drops is a short (ish) horror story, the first in a series of sinister tales from the Dead Boxes Archive.
Some objects are scary things. Dead Boxes definitely fall into that category.
They can be easily overlooked. They’re ordinary on the surface. At first glance anyway.
If you look a little closer, you’ll see something unique.
You could have one and not know it.
Be careful.
They hold miracle and mystery. Horror and salvation.
None are the same. Except in one regard.
You don’t need one.
You might think you do, but you really don’t.
Believe me.

A Short Horror Story
From the Dead Boxes Archive.

Links:

https://www.amazon.com/Call-Drops-Horror-John-Leonard-ebook/dp/B077T35TQC/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Call-Drops-Horror-John-Leonard-ebook/dp/B077T35TQC/

Author John F Leonard
Author John F Leonard

About the author:

John was born in England and grew up in the industrial Midlands, where he learned to love the sound of scrapyard dogs and the rattle and clank of passing trains.

He studied English, Art and History and has, at different times, been a sculptor, odd-job man and office worker. He enjoys horror and comedy (not necessarily together).

He has published six books. A Plague of Pages, Bad Pennies, Doggem, Call Drops, Collapse and 4 Hours, and is currently working on a number of projects which include more tales from the Dead Boxes Archive and the Scaeth Mythos, and new stories set in the ever evolving, post-apocalyptic world of Collapse.

https://www.amazon.com/John-F-Leonard/e/B01BHUE6Z6/

My review:

I write this review as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team (authors, if you are looking for reviews, check here), and I freely chose to review an ARC copy of this novella.

I won’t keep you guessing, I loved this story. After reading several longish novels in a similar genre, I fancied a break. And what better break from reading than reading something completely different?

I had read some great reviews of another one of Leonard’s novellas (also from the Dead Boxes Archive series) from members of the review team and knew I was in for a treat.

The story starts innocuously enough. An old man of means, Vincent Preece, (he used to have a business, one of the early businesses in mobile phones, and he sold it making a big profit) who likes to go to second-hand shops and car-boot sales finds something rather unusual and impossible to resist for him. It looks like an old mobile phone, but he does not recognise the model and cannot find any indication of how it works. Still, he has to have it.

If, like me, you loved the old Friday the 13th TV series with its creepy objects, or other similar stories (including some of the films in the Conjuring series), you will have guessed by now that things are going to take a turn for the interesting. And they do.

I don’t want to spoil the read, but let’s say the phone does not keep silent for long, and the atmosphere gets creepier and darker as it progresses. The story, told in the third person but almost totally from Vincent’s point of view, gets deeper and deeper into the protagonist’s psyche. When we meet him, he is a lonely man, somewhat embittered and opinionated (although he keeps those opinions to himself), who has suffered losses in his life, from his business and his cat, to his wife and daughter, but he seems settled and has learned to enjoy the little things in life. He is a keen and witty observer, has a quick mind, and a sharp sense of humour. I am not sure I would say he is the most sympathetic character I’ve read about, but he comes across as a grumpy but amusing old man, and his wit and the plot are more than enough to keep us engaged and turning the pages. If you’re a reader of the genre, you’ve probably guessed that things are not as clear-cut as they seem, but I won’t give you any specific details. You’ll have to read it yourselves.

Is it a horror story? It is not a scary story that will make you jump (or at least I don’t think so), but there are some horrifying scenes in it, graphically so (although no people are involved), and they’ve put some pictures in my mind that will probably remain there for a long time, but it is more in the range of the darker The Twilight Zone or Alfred Hitchcock Presents type of stories than something that will have you screaming out loud. If you read the description of the series, you’ll get a good sense of it, and the epilogue and the closing warning to the reader are very well done and reminded me of both these TV programmes.

The writing style is crisp and to the point, and the author manages to create a credible character with recognisable personality traits despite the briefness of the story. There are also moments when the writing reaches beyond functional storytelling, as if the character had dropped his self-protective shell and his stiff attitude and was talking from the heart.

Here, talking about his wife and daughter:

Their departure had left Vincent mystified and empty. As if the marrow had been sucked out of him. Hard to stand with hollow bones.

But also:

However liberal you tried to be, some folk were simply a waste of good organs. There was no denying it.

I won’t talk about the ending in detail. There is a twist, and although some readers might have their suspicions, I think it works well, and I enjoyed it.

I recommend this book to people who like dark and creepy reads, have a twisted sense of humour, and don’t mind some horrifying scenes. If you love The Twilight Zone or Alfred Hitchcock Presents and are looking for a short and quick-paced read, give it a try. Perhaps we don’t need Dead Boxes’ objects in our lives, but we definitely need more of their stories.

Thanks to Rosie (and all the members of the group) thanks to the author, thanks to you all for reading, and remember to like, share, comment, click, review and keep smiling!

 

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