“Ex Libris The Eyes of Madness, simple reviews from a simple reader…”
“He had told himself the last day of the trip that he would someday return to that heaven-like place, where fun ruled the day and school and homework were nothing but distant nightmares.
Except Dream Woods had suddenly, and without notice, closed its door in late ’89. There were no news stories about bankruptcy or scandals. It was simply open for business one day and abandoned the next.
There had been rumors of course, mostly ghost stories kids told across campfires, but Vince had heard enough accounts of mutilated bodies and cults to believe something had happened.”
Follow your screams…
When Vince Carter takes a shortcut to work he notices a billboard that nearly sends him into an oncoming van.
The ad is for Dream Woods, New England’s answer to Disney World. It closed decades ago, but now that it’s back in business, Vince is eager to take his whole family, hoping the magic he remembers will save his failing marriage.
His wife, Audra, isn’t so sure. She’s heard the rumors of why the place closed. Murder. Sacrifice. Torture. But those are just urban legends. Surely there’s nothing evil about a family tourist attraction.
The Carters are about to discover that the park’s employees aren’t concerned with their guests’ enjoyment. They’re interested in something else. Something much more sinister.
Welcome to Scream Woods!
“But there was something about the stories and the thought of Dream Woods that seemed to make his stomach churn. Not enough to make him scream in panic but enough to make him uneasy as they got in the van and pulled out of the driveway.”
I first came to know Patrick Lacey trough A Debt to be Paid, a charming and creepy debut novella. It was an enjoyable read. A few months later I had an opportunity to reacquaint with his work by way of Sleep Paralysis, a collection of Patrick’s short stories that more or less knocked my socks off. It tickled some of my darker places and prodded me in the feels a time or two. So, suffice to say that I was very excited to jump into Dream Woods, his latest release from Sinister Grin Press.
Did it floor me? Not really, but it is a fun read. Twisted and mischievous in its finer moments, where it counts, and a great way to spend a couple of cold, dark evenings.
First and foremost, my biggest hurdle with this read is that I had severe difficulty connecting with the main characters, the Carters. A family of four crumbling at the seams. And I guess it was really the married couple, Vince & Audra Carter, that I wasn’t feeling. Former punks thrust into the normalcy of family life. The relationship between their twin children, Andrew and diabetic Tim, the sibling rivalry, the feeling of one getting more attention than the other, it felt pretty authentic and involved me a bit more.
Where the book really caught me was at the gates of Dream Woods, an abandoned, edgy faux-Disneyland with a sordid past. Miraculously returned to its former graces. When we get to travel into the inner workings of the theme park things really get fun. The proprietors, the henchmen, it’s a fast pass to a good time.
The park is the main character and it’s creepy inhabitants (Sebastian and Doris are great characters) as an extension, they get to shine with plenty of dark and creepy visuals, with enough light hearted splatter to satisfy any gore fan.
There’s a great vibe flowing through the back 3/4 of this book (and probably through the first quarter as well for those how can tap into the family dynamic) almost a throw-back vibe to when horror was delivered with a wink and a smile. A nod between kindred spirits that says “we know why you’re here.” And yes, I think you do.
So get your hand stamped and jump into the nearest line. Dream Woods, it’s fun for the whole family…
“The wind picked up. Black clouds loomed over the mountains, blocking the sun completely. She finished the second cigarette and threw it to the ground, stomping it with her shoe and nearly falling over as she heard a scream.
It was shrill and pleading and it ended quickly, like something had cut it short. It came from behind her, from the park, and some part of her came alive with a warning.”
Overall score: 4/ 5
Zakk is a big dumb animal!
**Note: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the author and/ or publisher and I am reviewing it voluntarily. These are my honest, unbiased feelings. I did not receive any sort of compensation.
Patrick Lacey was born and raised in a haunted house. He spends his nights and weekends writing about things that make the general public uncomfortable. He lives in Massachusetts with his Pomeranian, his mustached cat, and his muse, who is likely trying to kill him. Find him on Facebook, follow him on Twitter (@patlacey), or visit his website.
Praise for Patrick Lacey
“This collection has it all, showing the world that Lacey can write and do it well. From frightening, eerie, soul-stamping to funny and gross, this book has it all. The man’s imagination is incredible. A must read!!!!” – David Bernstein, author of A Mixed Bag of Blood
“It’s a rare and joyful thing for me to read a book and realize I’m in the hands of an author who can go absolutely anywhere, who works without a formula and without a net. Such is the case with this stellar debut collection.” – Russell Coy, Amazon Review
“This fast-paced novella has terror on every page and will keep you searching the shadows in your home far more often than needed.” – Russell James, author of Q Island, on A Debt to Be Paid
If you’d like to feature Patrick Lacey on your blog or site, or review Dream Woods, please give Erin Al-Mehairi, marketing and publicity at Sinister Grin Press, a shout out at firstname.lastname@example.org.