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The Cult Called Freedom House (Sophia Rey #1)

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Everyone but Sophia and Cyrus were going to die. They were all goners well before they knew it. And they certainly thought whatever was happening, they were helping others and saving the world doing it. Samantha was only fourteen and looking for what every fourteen-year-old looks for - freedom. She wanted to be as far away from her substance-riddled mother and abusive home Everyone but Sophia and Cyrus were going to die. They were all goners well before they knew it. And they certainly thought whatever was happening, they were helping others and saving the world doing it. Samantha was only fourteen and looking for what every fourteen-year-old looks for - freedom. She wanted to be as far away from her substance-riddled mother and abusive home as possible, but she never asked for anything like this. It always starts with just one person and one fucked up idea. This is the story about Samantha and the cult called Freedom House. A psychological horror thriller, this book will frustrate you, scare you, disturb you, and at times, it will make you want to be ill. Are you ready to learn what's going on behind the doors of Freedom House?


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Everyone but Sophia and Cyrus were going to die. They were all goners well before they knew it. And they certainly thought whatever was happening, they were helping others and saving the world doing it. Samantha was only fourteen and looking for what every fourteen-year-old looks for - freedom. She wanted to be as far away from her substance-riddled mother and abusive home Everyone but Sophia and Cyrus were going to die. They were all goners well before they knew it. And they certainly thought whatever was happening, they were helping others and saving the world doing it. Samantha was only fourteen and looking for what every fourteen-year-old looks for - freedom. She wanted to be as far away from her substance-riddled mother and abusive home as possible, but she never asked for anything like this. It always starts with just one person and one fucked up idea. This is the story about Samantha and the cult called Freedom House. A psychological horror thriller, this book will frustrate you, scare you, disturb you, and at times, it will make you want to be ill. Are you ready to learn what's going on behind the doors of Freedom House?

30 review for The Cult Called Freedom House (Sophia Rey #1)

  1. 5 out of 5

    Janie C.

    Samantha, a fourteen year old girl, finds refuge within a cult, believing that she has finally found a place where she belongs. However, cults do not deliver the true sanctuary that they promise. This is the first novella in a series centered around Officer Sophia Rey. Sophia has nightmares of her own following a tragic incident from her childhood. Nevertheless, she is determined to rescue Samantha from the cult that threatens not only her future, but her life. The tension rises as different cha Samantha, a fourteen year old girl, finds refuge within a cult, believing that she has finally found a place where she belongs. However, cults do not deliver the true sanctuary that they promise. This is the first novella in a series centered around Officer Sophia Rey. Sophia has nightmares of her own following a tragic incident from her childhood. Nevertheless, she is determined to rescue Samantha from the cult that threatens not only her future, but her life. The tension rises as different characters and their roles are explored, and the story moves quickly and graphically. This novella would have benefited from some stronger editing, but as it is the author's first book, I will certainly give the next book the benefit of doubt. I look forward to reading it. 3.5 stars

  2. 5 out of 5

    Bark

    This is a gory little tale about a crazy cult and the young girl and tortured policewoman who get caught up in the culty madness. This book is a debut from author Evelyn and the first in what appears to be a series. It moves at a quick pace and I would've preferred to have things slow down a little bit in order to get to know the characters better. There was also a big reveal made in the opening chapter that ruined some of the suspense for me. But that's just me. I like a slower roll out of the This is a gory little tale about a crazy cult and the young girl and tortured policewoman who get caught up in the culty madness. This book is a debut from author Evelyn and the first in what appears to be a series. It moves at a quick pace and I would've preferred to have things slow down a little bit in order to get to know the characters better. There was also a big reveal made in the opening chapter that ruined some of the suspense for me. But that's just me. I like a slower roll out of the grossest of secrets. There are some nasty little surprises here so be warned but the worst of the worst happens behind closed doors.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Sadie Hartmann Mother Horror

    2.5 stars, rounded up for Goodreads The Cult Called Freedom House by Stephanie Evelyn is a debut novel and the first book in a series. I have been following the author on social media (she goes by the nickname, "Sterp") and I was given this book for review consideration. I'm impressed that this debut release has gathered so much early buzz and praise--that's the reason this book was able to jump over some of my previously scheduled review copies and land in my lap yesterday! So many of my fellow h 2.5 stars, rounded up for Goodreads The Cult Called Freedom House by Stephanie Evelyn is a debut novel and the first book in a series. I have been following the author on social media (she goes by the nickname, "Sterp") and I was given this book for review consideration. I'm impressed that this debut release has gathered so much early buzz and praise--that's the reason this book was able to jump over some of my previously scheduled review copies and land in my lap yesterday! So many of my fellow horror-loving reviewers have given this book high marks and have said some buzz-worthy things about their experience reading it. This is as binge-worthy as they say! I devoured the whole thing in one day. One reason this story goes down so fast is that the chapters are short-maybe one to two pages. I've been a junkie for short chapters ever since becoming a big fan of Chuck Wendig's back in early 2017. I'm a huge supporter of rapid-fire chapter breaks. It makes for compulsive-binge(y) reading. Another aspect of this story is that the pace moves quickly. Story developments unfold at an alarming speed. Unfortunately, the reader is not given very much time to settle into any one scene before being whisked off to something new. We find ourselves with the protagonist on the steps of the commune mentioned in the title/synopsis within 10-15 pages. Really not enough time for me to invest emotionally in our 14-year-old protagonist. The reader is spoon-fed a quick biography. Now hear me on this: I love stories about freaky cults. I can't get enough of that ritualistic, folk-style horror. Last month, I read Adam Nevill's THE REDDENING and its pretty much the apex for this genre so perhaps reading this book on the heels of such a prolific novel, is an unfair comparison but this felt sorely underdeveloped for me. The best part about cult horror is the cult itself and the cult leader. I want all the details. I want a front-row seat in the church of a charismatic leader. I want to watch the inner workings, the manipulations, the brainwashing-- all of it so I can empathize with the followers, the worship, the irresistible draw. It's fascinating to me that seemingly intelligent individuals could find themselves involved in something that looks totally bananas to the rest of us. In the case of Freedom House, the cult leader Cyrus preys on impressionable, neglected youth--yes, the low hanging fruit--but none of it was believable for me. One member of the cult takes on the role of mentor to our protagonist, Samantha but there was no commitment to the cult from this guy. There were zero reasons for him to stay there if he really knew everything he seemed to know about the secretive practices of the cult. There just wasn't any new territory here for someone who has read a lot about cults, watches all the movies and documentaries and has read a fair amount of cult-horror fiction. I was especially skeptical of one of the more shocking rituals the cult practiced. There was no motivation for it. I can't really talk about it but it was a huge leap to believe that average, normally functioning people would participate in something so extreme without any real spiritual or ritualistic meaning behind it. Simply put: I could not buy into it. All of that being said, Stephanie Evelyn is showing huge promise as a horror fiction writer. My favorite parts of the story were the chapters of Sophia Rey's story-a detective who deals intimately with tragedy and so she has a vested interest in cases of missing or runaway teens. I like that this book is part one of a series with a focus on this character-I hope the author chooses to dive deeper with Sophia, I see the real potential there. I would definitely read more from this author.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Latasha

    Oops! Didn't mean to read it so fast. I'm really interested in cults so I knew as soon as I saw this book, I had to read it. This is a very quick read. I read it in one day. The action and horror starts straight a way. The intensity and horror just keeps growing with no end in sight. If your a fan of cults, you'll probably guess how this ends. This is the first thing I've read by Stephanie Evelyn but won't be the last.

  5. 4 out of 5

    OutlawPoet

    After reading this, I discovered that this is the author’s first book and, wow! I would never have guessed. If this is what she has to offer for her debut novel, the world of horror has something to look forward to! I do want to warn you that the book isn’t graphic horror. I say this because the beginning of the book warns you that it’s disturbing and if you’re looking for extreme horror, you might be disappointed. While there’s certainly blood, much of the actual violence takes place off the pag After reading this, I discovered that this is the author’s first book and, wow! I would never have guessed. If this is what she has to offer for her debut novel, the world of horror has something to look forward to! I do want to warn you that the book isn’t graphic horror. I say this because the beginning of the book warns you that it’s disturbing and if you’re looking for extreme horror, you might be disappointed. While there’s certainly blood, much of the actual violence takes place off the page. What may disturb you (and should disturb you) are the scenes involving a child. Again, nothing explicit or graphic, but there’s no question exactly what happens to the child in question. If this subject is a tough one for you, you may find you have some trouble here. Although anything graphic happens off-page, the book isn’t subtle. This is pretty hard horror and does have some stomach churning scenes. Aside from that, the author brings us characters to root for and a plot that keeps you reading. I was pleased with this. It’s a fast read and the author is now on my radar. I’m looking forward to whatever she brings us next.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Lilyn G. | Sci-Fi & Scary |

    The Cult Called Freedom House was the Ladies of Horror Fiction Goodreads Group read for the month of December. Basically my thoughts for this book can be summed up in the following sentence: It’s a great first draft. It really is. There is so much potential in this book to be a truly excellent read. I don’t even enjoy cult-type horror stories and I found myself intrigued by what I was reading. But this was not ready to be published. The characters are cardboard cut-outs that need fleshed out. The The Cult Called Freedom House was the Ladies of Horror Fiction Goodreads Group read for the month of December. Basically my thoughts for this book can be summed up in the following sentence: It’s a great first draft. It really is. There is so much potential in this book to be a truly excellent read. I don’t even enjoy cult-type horror stories and I found myself intrigued by what I was reading. But this was not ready to be published. The characters are cardboard cut-outs that need fleshed out. The pacing is horrendous. You’re never quite sure how much time has gone by until the author tells you the character has been there for months and suddenly it’s like ‘Oh, okay.’ There needs to be some reason to let readers understand why people would be attracted to Cyrus and the Cult and right now there isn’t. It feels like we’re just supposed to accept everything at face value and this book is way too rushed to do that. There are some great scenes in The Cult Called Freedom House. There’s one involving vomit that had my stomach churning. There’s a scene near the end involving a little chant and some trippy imagery that felt very IT-inspired and shows Evelyn’s potential for doing some truly mind-screw horror. And that thing with the maggots… *shudders* Anyways, quick and easy read and with a couple of more drafts, I think it could be a kick-ass book. It’s just not there yet.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Matt (TeamRedmon)

    The Cult Called Freedom House is a debut novel from author Stephanie Evelyn. The story itself centers around a teenager named Samantha as she joins a Cult that calls themselves Freedom House. The cult’s leader, Cyrus, fancies himself a god on earth and has convinced his followers to believe in only him. There is a darkness coming, and only Cyrus can save them and only if they do as he commands. As Samantha progresses from initiate to full member, we learn more about the inner workings of the cul The Cult Called Freedom House is a debut novel from author Stephanie Evelyn. The story itself centers around a teenager named Samantha as she joins a Cult that calls themselves Freedom House. The cult’s leader, Cyrus, fancies himself a god on earth and has convinced his followers to believe in only him. There is a darkness coming, and only Cyrus can save them and only if they do as he commands. As Samantha progresses from initiate to full member, we learn more about the inner workings of the cult and its members. Through Samantha’s eyes, we sink deeper and deeper into the world that Cyrus has created on this little patch of land. It appears, from the outside, to be idyllic, and one can see what the initial appeal of Freedom House would be to someone like Samantha, someone that feels the world has abandoned her. Cyrus promises love, acceptance, belonging, and freedom, none of which are available to Samantha in the outside world. She wants Freedom House, and Freedom House wants her. We also meet detective Sophia Rey, someone with some previous experience with cults. Sophia begins to investigate Samantha’s disappearance and traces her to Freedom House. Detective Rey decides to go undercover and join Freedom House to confirm Samantha’s location; gain intel on Cyrus and Freedom House; and, if possible, help Samantha escape. The book is a wonderful debut from an author that I will be keeping my eye on. The characters are well developed and relatable; we understand their motivations even when their decision is objectively, well, not ideal. As far as the horror goes, Evelyn delivers with disgusting aplomb. There are several scenes in this book that are quite disturbing and disgusting, but there is one particular scene that legitimately horrified me. Look at me when I say this; HORRIFIED ME. I have read 137 horror books this year, and this, I think, is the first scene that made me physically retch.  My only complaint about this book is that it feels like part of a larger work. But, the cover promises that there will be more from Sophia Rey, and I’m here for it.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Emily

    "It always starts with just one person and one fucked up idea." The Cult Called Freedom House is the debut novel in a new series about detective Sophia Rey. I was very interested in the story, and couldn't wait to see what was going to happen. Although I enjoyed the story, I struggled with some aspects of the formatting. I feel like this story deserved to be expanded because it was really good, but it felt like too much was missing for me to truly get invested. I know it's going to be a series, b "It always starts with just one person and one fucked up idea." The Cult Called Freedom House is the debut novel in a new series about detective Sophia Rey. I was very interested in the story, and couldn't wait to see what was going to happen. Although I enjoyed the story, I struggled with some aspects of the formatting. I feel like this story deserved to be expanded because it was really good, but it felt like too much was missing for me to truly get invested. I know it's going to be a series, but I just feel like there was missing content. I almost never want books to be longer, but I really wish this one would have been. I have a lot of questions about the story that I can't mention without spoiling something. I can't tell if these are plot holes, or things that will be answered in the next book, and it frustrated me. The time jumps and flashbacks in the book got confusing. It is not clear how time is moving at any point in the book - days and months seem to pass at the same rate. There isn't any additional evidence to show that time has passed, just mention of a few months passing, and it's a little jarring. I kept thinking about real-life cult leaders, and there was always something missing for Cyrus. He didn't have a driving factor that caused fear; he just kept saying the darkness was coming, and talked about freedom, and that was about it. This was frustrating to me because it's not enough to be believable to convince people to follow you on this level. I just needed something more. This book could have also used a few more rounds of editing - I try not to mention errors in my review unless it's to the point that it was distracting, and it was for this book. I do feel like all the pieces for a really great story were here; it just needed a little more to tie everything together. I still want to read the next book in the series. There's a lot to enjoy here, especially a couple great horror scenes, but I wish it would have been more well-rounded.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Kirsten LoAndBeHolt

    This review is hard to write because, while I'm going to start out with a small review of the book itself, I'm going to do an overall critique of the editing. For fairness, I feel it's worth mentioning that this star rating primarily affects the editing and not the work. The Cult Called Freedom House is the first book from new author Stephanie Evelyn. It's set to be the first novella is a series about detective Sophia Rey. TCCFH starts us off with multiple perspectives and eerie prologues, as mo This review is hard to write because, while I'm going to start out with a small review of the book itself, I'm going to do an overall critique of the editing. For fairness, I feel it's worth mentioning that this star rating primarily affects the editing and not the work. The Cult Called Freedom House is the first book from new author Stephanie Evelyn. It's set to be the first novella is a series about detective Sophia Rey. TCCFH starts us off with multiple perspectives and eerie prologues, as most good horror thrillers do, so it's clear that Evelyn has done her homework in the genre. We follow Sophia Rey as she tries to unravel the mystery of vanishing teens in the streets of Santa Cruz, California. We also follow the perspective of aformentioned missing-teen, Samantha, turned Ivy for the sake of integrating into the titular Cult. As far as the writing, this book is incredibly fast-paced and also ambitious. I don't think that's a bad thing, but maybe for a first book, the author bit off more than she could chew. The bones of this story are solid. I wanted to like these characters, especially a duo of strong women fighting their personal demons in a male world: Sophia as the primary lead on an all-male detective force, and Samantha/Ivy as a 14-yr-old whose battling ageism and family abandonment, just trying to have her traumas heard. But the pacing was so fast I never felt I had an adequate amount of time to settle into the place of the plot-- the streets of Santa Cruz, Samantha's home, Freedom House-- nor did I feel like I knew the cast well enough-- especially the other cops, but I will say that the children at Freedom Home were a decent amount more fleshed out. For my own reading, setting and character trump plot development. I can follow just about any story as long as the setting mirrors or distracts from the conflict, as long as the people are worth following for good or ill. But I found myself wanting more, especially from an explicitly evil and manipulative force like Cyrus. Cults are tricky to both live with and to write. It's hard to comprehend how well-meaning people, often good people who've been hurt before, find themselves so willingly enveloped in cults. That makes them especially tricky to write. You have to find a balance of seeing through the veil, and also wanting to believe the people in the cult are good. I got moments of each of those, but overall felt this book needed more work before publication. That's a good criticism of an early author. Evelyn has so much time and room to review, especially with an encouraging and supportive collection of readers at her back like she clearly has on bookstagram. We want this author to succeed. Here's my main problem: Most of this should never have passed an editor's approval, and at first, I was convinced that this must have been recklessly self-published. But it wasn't. I have a history in the publishing industry, and this book reeks of taking advantage of new authors. Just to name an incomplete list of problems I've seen in the short time I've had with this book: --exhaustive spelling, grammar, punctuation, and diction errors --allowing names of major characters to be too syntactically close for readers to differentiate (Cyrus, Samantha, Sophia, even Santa Cruz) --A LOT of passive voice and tense changes. --Dialogue that feels stilted and without personal connection --There aren't any contractions in this book, especially in dialogue. A drug dealer shouldn't be saying "I am right here!" like they need diction and dialect and personality. We get mid-paragraph point-of-view switches to characters whose perspectives we shouldn't be allowed to see --a lot of telling and relying on abstractions instead of showing a reader through concrete details --missing direct address commas --lack of characterization Having experience as an editor, a beta-reader, an occasional writer, and an avid reader, I can tell you this is neither normal, nor the sole fault of an author. A book is a massive undertaking, and no one can write one in a vacuum. You NEED outside readers, and people willing to suggest hard criticisms to make a work stronger. So much of a book happens in the author's head that it's only through editors and beta-readers pointing out gaps that the story can fully form onto the written page. This author and this book deserved a stronger editing and beta-reading presence to make it shine, and it didn't get that. I'd be happy to read more from this author if she was able to get out from under the wing of her editor and find stronger readers. Hell, I'd love to beta-read for this author. She's got tons of promise, and needs a team to support the excellent work she's obviously capable of. I'm disappointed that this happened to an author with such promise, and my review reflects the poor editing decisions on the part of Hook of a Book Media.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Rob

    Hi, Sterp! (to readers, there may be little spoliers in the review below, so if you don't read it, then I'll say: get this novel, it's a good read, and read more Sterp when she publishes!) I thought this was a strong outing for a first-time novelist. The protagonist has a good backstory to make the reader sympathize with her, the writing and word usage is well done without being too purple prose, and there are some nice images throughout. It brought me down to the street-level of Santa Cruz, Cali Hi, Sterp! (to readers, there may be little spoliers in the review below, so if you don't read it, then I'll say: get this novel, it's a good read, and read more Sterp when she publishes!) I thought this was a strong outing for a first-time novelist. The protagonist has a good backstory to make the reader sympathize with her, the writing and word usage is well done without being too purple prose, and there are some nice images throughout. It brought me down to the street-level of Santa Cruz, California, where the sweet scum lives, not the celebrities. The dispossessed are more interesting to read about than the elite, I feel. What I'd caution Sterp about: watch your punctuation, where the commas go, and at least once the tense turned from past to present within the same sentence. I fall into that too; so many writing traps that slip us up, but that's how we learn to notice them. Also, the parallel cult story about Boulder Creek does buttress the main story, but I felt it went on for too long. If it had been connected to the main story, OK, so that there's a revelation between Cryus and the other cult leader, but he admits to just knowing about it, there's no connection other than that. (yes I know I'm scewing up my punctuation here, but ...) Also with that parallel story: it's all in italics, which becomes tough to read when it goes on for long -- and the reader, again, thinks that the writer is mentioning a complete second story (that could've been part one of Sophia Rey, or a prequel) because it's going to be something bigger than it turned out to be. Also, Samantha seems to get into the cult too quickly, then out too quickly. And Sophia reveals her identity to Samantha too readily as well. I asked myself: why wouldn't Sophia see what she saw, get out, get a warrant, search the place, free those who want to be free? I know why, of course, because that would've made for a longer, less climatic story. Every writer cuts out reality for fantasy because these are all called novels, not history. I felt the ending was strong, but it could've gone on for longer, and, thus, you could've cut down the parallel cult story to a paragraph or a single page, not multiple chapters. Anyway, Sterp, well-done overall. You should be proud of this and you should keep writing, and always learn from each novel you write for the next one you write. Learning how to write never ceases, nor should it. I'm still learning a ton of things with every novel I write. Thank you for my copy. Rob

  11. 4 out of 5

    The Grim Reader

    The Cult Called Freedom House certainly isn’t going to win any literary awards, however, I did enjoy myself reading this well-paced short novel. The pages seemed to fly by and I was pretty keen to get stuck back into it whenever I could. It's a harrowing tale of manipulation, abuse and cannibalism. The story gets darker and darker, and contrary to what cult leader Cyrus keeps saying, there is so little light inside of the freedom house. I thought back to the Waco siege in 1993 when cult leader D The Cult Called Freedom House certainly isn’t going to win any literary awards, however, I did enjoy myself reading this well-paced short novel. The pages seemed to fly by and I was pretty keen to get stuck back into it whenever I could. It's a harrowing tale of manipulation, abuse and cannibalism. The story gets darker and darker, and contrary to what cult leader Cyrus keeps saying, there is so little light inside of the freedom house. I thought back to the Waco siege in 1993 when cult leader David Koresh and his Branch Dividians went toe to toe with the FBI in what would become a bloody massacre. I felt like The Cult Called Freedom House leaned heavily on this but I’m okay with this as it was a fascinating and scary event. All said, this is a tight easy, breezy reading experience. And so... 4/5 paths to enlightenment from the Grim Reader.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Lee drunkonbookz

    3.5 stars "There are things darker than street corners past midnight. When you have addicts looking for their kids, that's when you know there's a real problem." When talking cults we know it's gonna be a bumpy ride. Ever heard of a cult with a happy ending? Why should this one be any different. This is book #1 in the Sophia Rey series & also the debut novel for Stephanie Evelyn. This crime/horror involves all the topics we try to avoid thinking about, especially when it comes to children. I found 3.5 stars "There are things darker than street corners past midnight. When you have addicts looking for their kids, that's when you know there's a real problem." When talking cults we know it's gonna be a bumpy ride. Ever heard of a cult with a happy ending? Why should this one be any different. This is book #1 in the Sophia Rey series & also the debut novel for Stephanie Evelyn. This crime/horror involves all the topics we try to avoid thinking about, especially when it comes to children. I found this book horrifyingly realistic & it even made my tummy ache which I love in a good horror but it also lacked content in many areas. I would have preferred more of the blanks filled in & a slightly longer book. I look forward to book number 2. I’d like to thank Stephanie for sending me a free copy of this book.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Angel Gelique

    “Evil lived on. It might die away in one instance but would always be reborn into another.” With a nasty, neglectful alcoholic mother and an absent father, fourteen-year-old Samantha Watson’s home life grows increasingly more unbearable and miserable. It isn’t long before she’s associating with some unsavory characters, exposed to drugs. It is while she is waiting for a friend on the street that she meets Miles, who informs her about a commune called Freedom House. The idea of a close-knit co “Evil lived on. It might die away in one instance but would always be reborn into another.” With a nasty, neglectful alcoholic mother and an absent father, fourteen-year-old Samantha Watson’s home life grows increasingly more unbearable and miserable. It isn’t long before she’s associating with some unsavory characters, exposed to drugs. It is while she is waiting for a friend on the street that she meets Miles, who informs her about a commune called Freedom House. The idea of a close-knit community/family immediately appeals to her and it isn’t long before she becomes part of the cult. She assumes a new name, Ivy, and seems to fit right in...until she discovers that not everything is as it first seemed. Though there are some elements of gore, this struck me as more of a young adult story. The writing is simple and straightforward. Still, the story is entertaining. The supernatural scenes were a bit of a stretch, and unnecessary, I felt, but overall, the story is enjoyable. I would definitely read the sequel.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Shaina

    Stuff later Edit*** This was a strange book, but hey, it dealt with a cult. It was going to be strange. That being said it didn’t disappoint with the strangeness. I think it was an HA monthly book. I tell you, it was a harrowing story and it delivered all the detritus and malarkey a cult would plus a good police investigation. Very convincing. It was between a 3.5 and 4 for me.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Octavia (ReadsWithDogs)

    This was a quick binge read! The chapters are all very short and easy to read and the story was engrossing! Freedom House cult is definitely a fucked up creepy place! However, everything happens so damn fast (especially with the short chapters) that I had trouble connecting to the story. There's so many characters with similar names and that was a little confusing and each one was introduced briefly, but not enough to feel fully fleshed out to me. I felt like I was reading a first draft that could This was a quick binge read! The chapters are all very short and easy to read and the story was engrossing! Freedom House cult is definitely a fucked up creepy place! However, everything happens so damn fast (especially with the short chapters) that I had trouble connecting to the story. There's so many characters with similar names and that was a little confusing and each one was introduced briefly, but not enough to feel fully fleshed out to me. I felt like I was reading a first draft that could have used some editing. Perhaps it's because I just finished a fantastic creepy cult book (THE REDDENING) and so I had high standards, but THE CULT CALLED FREEDOM HOUSE, fell short. I do have hope that the author will be a force to be reckoned with though and will continue to look for her work.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Glenn Parker

    3.5 stars I was lucky enough to be given an ARC to read in return for an honest review. First of all! wow, what an achievement. Most people dream of calling themselves a writer and actually having a finished product to show the world. It must be such an amazing feeling to put your heart and soul out into the world to share with other like-minded people who live on the fringe and thrive in the wonderful horror community. I am proud to have read this story and to take part in help making it grow, an 3.5 stars I was lucky enough to be given an ARC to read in return for an honest review. First of all! wow, what an achievement. Most people dream of calling themselves a writer and actually having a finished product to show the world. It must be such an amazing feeling to put your heart and soul out into the world to share with other like-minded people who live on the fringe and thrive in the wonderful horror community. I am proud to have read this story and to take part in help making it grow, and to watch your journey. Now to the meat and potatoes. The Cult Called Freedom House - If you are anything like me - and let's face it if you are here reading this review, you probably are - then you are already familiar with the dangers that lurk within small town cults. You've seen the doco's, you've read every true crime book there is to read, and you always want more! the mere mention of the word 'Cult' gives you a little tingle in the places it shouldn't. I am happy to report that you will not be disappointed in your seeking of more cult goodness in this wonderful novel. I don't need to tell you what it's about, you've read the blurb, I will tell you, however, that you have made the right choice in considering purchasing this book, and again, if you are anything like me, you won't regret it. The characters feel real. You've met most of them at some point in your life and may even relate to a few of them. There is a wonderful sense of connection in the book and the chapters flow beautifully when weaving in and out of characters. There is a decent amount of all the nasty horrible going on's of a brainwashed cult. Plenty of disturbing things to sate our morbid curiosity. The location seems alive and real, there is really no flaws in the world around you in the book. Lastly and my absolute favourite part of it all, the writing. I just want to say a massive thank you for not making it dense and cramming in page after page of purple prose. I am often wary of new writers due to their tendency to use purple prose every chance they get. Nothing makes me put a book down quicker than a book that feels like I have to chew the words to get them into my head. At no point did I ever get taken out of the story or have to re-read lines because they were to over the top. The Cult Called Freedom House has a great blend of wonderful prose and just plain good ole' fashioned writing. Thank you for giving this story life and the room to breathe. So why not 5 stars? I feel like the world is a little skewed in their methods of giving a book 5 stars. You can love the shit out of a book, be grossed out, be scared for your own life, think about it, talk about it, consume it, and still not rate it 5 stars. 3.5 stars is now the highest rating I have given a debut novel. The true heavyweights of the genre are still not always a 5 star. a 5 star means absolute perfection and few and far between rarely reach it. Do I think Stephanie has that potential? I wouldn't be here writing this if I didn't believe she has it in her.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Cassie Lola (holo.reader)

    2.5 stars, rounded up for Goodreads! Full review on my blog: https://letsgetgalactic.com/2020/02/1... This review is a bit of a tough one for me to write, as I became friends with the author on social media before the book’s release, and being friends with the people who write the books you read as a reviewer can sometimes be a little hard. Reviewing a book you maybe didn’t love written by a person you adore is never an easy task, even moreso when the book being read is their debut. That said, I 2.5 stars, rounded up for Goodreads! Full review on my blog: https://letsgetgalactic.com/2020/02/1... This review is a bit of a tough one for me to write, as I became friends with the author on social media before the book’s release, and being friends with the people who write the books you read as a reviewer can sometimes be a little hard. Reviewing a book you maybe didn’t love written by a person you adore is never an easy task, even moreso when the book being read is their debut. That said, I do fully believe that book reviews are for readers, and as a reader, I’m going to be honest with my thoughts on every book I read, regardless of how much respect and admiration I have for the person writing it. I’ll start this off by saying that I’m normally a fan of real life based horror, especially involving what I call “SVU related topics” – I even have a Goodreads shelf specifically dedicated to this little subgenre! I’m a very big Benson fan, you don’t even know. When buzz started sounding off about Stephanie Evelyn – also known as Sterp online – and her debut book about cults, a police woman, and a young girl in the middle of all the chaos, I was instantly intrigued. After hearing really positive things from some fellow reviewers, I had high hopes and pushed the book up on my TBR so that I could read it for Women in Horror month. I was a little surprised to see that the book was so short – at just 165 digital pages (243 in the paperback, according to Goodreads), I wondered how the author would be able to fit so much in. I could easily see a cult novel spanning the course of 400+ pages, but I’ve also seen some pretty incredible things done with short works of fiction recently, so I pushed forward with high hopes intact. The story pulled me in right away, but I found that I couldn’t stay focused on it. The writing was straightforward to the point of almost being a bit too much so, and I started to quickly feel like I was being given too much information at random intervals that didn’t totally align with the rest of the story’s pacing, while other things – large bits of necessary information as a reader – were left out. Honestly, the pacing in general was difficult for me to get used to, and I found that to be a bit jarring to my reading experience. I often also found myself confused on how much time had passed during certain parts of the story, as well as some confusion over things like which character was which, and general motivations for the cult members, which are pretty important to the believability of something like what’s being written here. The bare bones of the story are solid, and I applaud the author’s creativity and choice of character and subject matter to write about. Unfortunately I also really feel like this seems as if it’s much more of a first draft or outline than a final, finished novel. I believe it’s part of a bigger series based on the main character, the detective herself, which I understand will probably eventually reveal more. But even that said, there was so much that could have – and in my opinion, should have – been expanded upon here that instead felt rushed and hollow. I am eager to see what else Stephanie Evelyn releases, as I have no doubts as to her capabilities as a storyteller and creative mind. I legitimately gagged at a certain stew scene – I won’t say too much more – and I have a pretty strong stomach reading-wise, so I’m confident in saying that she’s got what it takes to write something stunning. I’d just maybe give it a couple more rounds of edits & maybe a little time to sit and then come back and reread later to see what can be added/removed to make the story being told as strong as it can be. Despite my issues with this first book, I still have high hopes for future releases, and for the author. I enjoyed what I got to learn and know about Sophia Rey herself, and plan to continue reading along with her story once the next installation comes out.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Tracy Robinson

    DNF. I tried to get into this but it just wasn’t working for me.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Sjgomzi

    Holy hell. Cult stories scare the crap out of me, and this certainly didn’t disappoint. This is the first book in what I believe will be a new series showcasing damaged police officer Sophia Rey. A tragic event from Rey’s past compels her to wade full on into what is essentially a living nightmare. Freedom House, home to cult leader Cyrus and his creepy as hell followers. Beatings, cannibalism, brain reprogramming, and other unspeakable acts are all present in this house of horrors. Speaking of Holy hell. Cult stories scare the crap out of me, and this certainly didn’t disappoint. This is the first book in what I believe will be a new series showcasing damaged police officer Sophia Rey. A tragic event from Rey’s past compels her to wade full on into what is essentially a living nightmare. Freedom House, home to cult leader Cyrus and his creepy as hell followers. Beatings, cannibalism, brain reprogramming, and other unspeakable acts are all present in this house of horrors. Speaking of which, Penelope, Freedom House’s resident chef, is sure to make reoccurring appearances in my nightmares for many nights to come. A bit of advice, don’t eat the stew. 😳 This book got under my skin, it’s horrifying, and disturbing in so many ways, and it made me feel dirty after finishing it. As far as taboos go, no stone is left unturned here. Seriously, Bathing in a tub of bleach sounded like a great idea after turning the final page. Compulsively readable, this was a good debut. I only wish there was levity placed somewhere in the story. Some ray of light, a smidgen of hope. Anything to lighten the load. But this isn’t that type of story. It was almost too bleak, and I felt like I was being smothered at times by all of the grim happenings occurring throughout. A minor complaint though. There are no supernatural elements here, no boogeymen, or malevolent spirits. Instead, we are given a front row seat to the scariest horror show out there, starring the most dangerous monsters of all-ordinary people, and the evil deeds we sometimes perpetrate on each other.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Sea Caummisar

    3.5 stars rounded up to 4. And that's by no fault of the book. But I'll get to that sooner. I do believe I read somewhere that this is the author's first book. And I say kudos to that. It's a simple read. Very interesting, depending on what you like. I want to thank the author for a review copy of this book. I found this book through a tweet and it said something along the lines "if you can stomach it." That's a challenge to me. I read Matt Shaw, Ezra Blake (patiently awaiting her next release), 3.5 stars rounded up to 4. And that's by no fault of the book. But I'll get to that sooner. I do believe I read somewhere that this is the author's first book. And I say kudos to that. It's a simple read. Very interesting, depending on what you like. I want to thank the author for a review copy of this book. I found this book through a tweet and it said something along the lines "if you can stomach it." That's a challenge to me. I read Matt Shaw, Ezra Blake (patiently awaiting her next release), Ed Lee... Some hardcore horror. I want to be grossed out. I want to see people being tortured as I turn the pages. I love the blood and gore. When the intro said something about this book not being for the squeamish, I got excited. Maybe it's not for the squeamish, but it's not for extreme horror fans either (in my opinion). That's why I gave it 3.5 stars. Now, I read the blurb after reading the actual book. I should have known it was more about the cops than the actual cult. Don't get me wrong, there's cannibalism and people eating vomit and the aftermath of butchered bodies. But it's the aftermath of those poor souls dying. Not the violence. I wanted the violence. Plus, the ending got kinda screwy. I don't wanna spoil it, but when people lose their mind in books and they don't even know what's real, how can the reader really know what's happening. That's hard for even seasoned authors to pull off. Now, the book is written great. I loved that it was easy to follow. I did want to know what happened, but the ending left me with more questions than answers. With that being said, I'm sure people who like detective books and mysteries about detectives flashing back to their past etc... would like this book. It was okay. But I'd put the squeamish part along the lines of Usher's Passing. If you read my review of that (it was the most boring cannibal book I think I have ever read). But if you're not expecting anything extreme, it's a good book.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Well Read Beard

    First, let's talk about this cover. It is gorgeous. I am sitting here trying to think of a cover that pulls me in this much and I cannot. This book gave me characters that I cared about, an intriguing setting and horror ( lots of horror). Samantha is 14 years old, I have a 14 year old daughter. So, for me, everything she was going through hit a bit closer to home. This is a study on wanting to fit in, wanting to find a home, and ultimately wanting to be free. We get deep into cult psychology and First, let's talk about this cover. It is gorgeous. I am sitting here trying to think of a cover that pulls me in this much and I cannot. This book gave me characters that I cared about, an intriguing setting and horror ( lots of horror). Samantha is 14 years old, I have a 14 year old daughter. So, for me, everything she was going through hit a bit closer to home. This is a study on wanting to fit in, wanting to find a home, and ultimately wanting to be free. We get deep into cult psychology and the group mentality that allows cults like this to exist and things like this to happen. Our villain is the pure definition of narcissism. The imagery in this book is breath taking, for me the image of the vile, disgusting actions masked by the simple, clean, stark clothing will remain in my mind. It is an image of death, the death of innocence. The setting, as simple as it was, felt vast and clean. The secrets held in this house made it all feel much more sprawling than the building's architecture could actually allow. Our hero is a strong female lead. She has her own history, her own ghosts and I relish the thought of getting to know more about her. I look forward to more Sophia Rey stories, filling in her backstory as the series progresses. Ultimately this is a dark, unpredictable story with a well-laid setting and unforgettable characters. How much more could be accomplished in the novella format? I enjoyed every minute.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Yolanda Sfetsos

    I was really excited when Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi sent me a review copy of this book. It's one I've heard great things about on Twitter, and was totally intrigued by. And I love that creepy cover. Samantha is fourteen, lives with her deadbeat mother, and dreams of running away. Sophia is a tough cop living with a haunting memory from her childhood. Detective Salvino doesn't want a repeat of what happened six years ago when he dealt with a cult. Now, young kids are disappearing and everything leads t I was really excited when Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi sent me a review copy of this book. It's one I've heard great things about on Twitter, and was totally intrigued by. And I love that creepy cover. Samantha is fourteen, lives with her deadbeat mother, and dreams of running away. Sophia is a tough cop living with a haunting memory from her childhood. Detective Salvino doesn't want a repeat of what happened six years ago when he dealt with a cult. Now, young kids are disappearing and everything leads to the doorstep of the Cult Called Freedom House... O.M.F.G. 😳 This book is about a cult, so of course I went in expecting some pretty terrible things. I mean, what else is a cult but a place where downtrodden people are brainwashed and abused? While accepting this abuse because they're convinced they deserve it. Yeah, I knew what I was getting into. Even then, I was equally disgusted, disturbed, intrigued and captivated by everything that was going on. As soon as I started, I couldn't put my Paperwhite down. I needed to find out what was going to happen next. There are a lot of things to like about this book, but the characters were the lifeline. They're interesting and real. Whether I despised or sympathised with them, I was totally invested in every single one of their screwed-up lives. This story isn't pretty. A lot of what happens is dirty and unnerving. Samantha is a great character. A young girl, lost and in desperate need of attention. She craves a real home and even when things don't seem as perfect as she first thought in Freedom House, she pushes on. And is strong as hell. Sophia is another intriguing character. She's a cop and wants to save people because her own guilt has become a never-ending haunting she can't escape. Dealing with Freedom House teaches her there are deeper levels of being broken than she already is, while also pushing her. Detective Salvino is a caring man lost in a world where some of the most horrible things he sees are perpetrated by his gender. He wants to save the young and naive, even after a huge failure to do so. The sense of location was described really well. Santa Cruz might look like a cosy coastal town, but it ain't Santa Carla. The predators here aren't vampires. They're drugs, dealers and desperation. The lost boys and girls of Santa Cruz are lured by a different kind of immortality. The Cult of Freedom House is a gritty and sometimes really uncomfortable book. It actually deals with two of my least favourite horror tropes--can't say which because of spoilers. The kind of stuff I usually stay away from. But the way this is written, the creepy vibes and the heart at the core of everything, kept me hooked to the page. Yeah, I really enjoyed this book and the descent to the end had me on the edge of my seat because the suspense was killer. The only other thing I want to say is that if you're squeamish about the grosser parts of human predators, prepare yourself. This story goes to some very dark and depraved places.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Scott Murray

    I simply just couldn’t put it down. After reading the first couple of chapters last night before bed, I finished it today. The characters felt so real and the story cinematic in a way that made me want to just keep reading until it was done!

  24. 4 out of 5

    Michael Clark

    There are many forms of horror: Slashers, eerie/chilling, gory, demonic, etcetera, and in Stephanie Evelyn’s foreword she tells us: “This book is not for the faint of heart.” Okay, fair warning. I usually like my horror on the “chilling” side, but when I read her warning, I knew I was in for a bumpy ride through her haunted house, and I was free to get off now if I wanted to—but of course I chose to stay, and I’m glad I did. I had a lot of fun. Were there times when I didn’t want her to “go there There are many forms of horror: Slashers, eerie/chilling, gory, demonic, etcetera, and in Stephanie Evelyn’s foreword she tells us: “This book is not for the faint of heart.” Okay, fair warning. I usually like my horror on the “chilling” side, but when I read her warning, I knew I was in for a bumpy ride through her haunted house, and I was free to get off now if I wanted to—but of course I chose to stay, and I’m glad I did. I had a lot of fun. Were there times when I didn’t want her to “go there,” but she did anyway? Yes, there were. Two or three times. “Carrot stew” comes to mind, but it’s nothing a true horror fan can’t handle by any means. We find out early on that TCCFH is grisly, but Stephanie is a good writer and makes it all entertaining. If I had to come up with something that it reminds me of, I would say the movie “Midsommar,” and I also caught a “Silence of the Lambs” vibe in the final quarter of the book. That’s pretty good company. Oh, and it’s only her first novel! I look forward to more.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Sonora Taylor

    4.5 ⭐️. Excellent cult horror and a stunning debut. I was really impressed with Evelyn's debut novel. I was drawn into the cult, the heroines, the world, all of it. It was very well done and disturbed me in all the right places. Evelyn is an author to watch.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Brad

    I've been hearing a lot of good buzz about this book from people I interact with on Twitter and it did not disappoint. This is Stephanie Evelyn's debut novel but you cannot tell it. Any veteran writing would be proud to have written this. It is dark, ominous and unsettling because of how real it feels. You won't find any monsters lurking within these pages other than the most monstrous creatures of all: us, humans. This novel delves into the human psyche and how easily some of us can go about in I've been hearing a lot of good buzz about this book from people I interact with on Twitter and it did not disappoint. This is Stephanie Evelyn's debut novel but you cannot tell it. Any veteran writing would be proud to have written this. It is dark, ominous and unsettling because of how real it feels. You won't find any monsters lurking within these pages other than the most monstrous creatures of all: us, humans. This novel delves into the human psyche and how easily some of us can go about inflicting such vile atrocities upon others. The characters all felt real and relatable. You have officer Sophia Rey. A police officer whose past forever haunts her and clouds her future actions. You also have Samantha Watson. A fourteen year old girl whose home life is crap. An abusive drunk of a mother, a filthy home with no feed to eat, and her mother's many boyfriends who are all less than savory creatures. Samantha is tired of her life and just wants to escape, to run away, to be free. This is how she is drawn into Freedom House. This novel gave off some serious Charles Manson and Helter Skelter vibes. It also reminded me some of True Detective season three. The most terrifying portions of this book aren't the acts of violence and depravity, or the scenes of sexual violence, but the ability of certain people, like the cult leader Cryus, to brainwash people into doing their bidding. The power and influence that Cryus wields over the members of Freedom House if what terrified me the most. My only real criticism is that their is one scene where a character knows who another character is but there is no explanation given on how or why they know them, and if they have known who they are the whole time it sort of breaks the plot. This could all be explained in book two though. Overall I throughly enjoyed this novel and am looking forward to book two. Stephanie has crafted a story here that feels real and relatable because it is a story that has played out numerous times in reality. I'm not squeamish in the least bit but their is one scene in the book that made me have to take a few deep breaths to keep from gagging. (If you've read the book you know what I'm talking about). If you are a fan of novels involving cults then this is one that you don't want to miss. Thanks to the author for sending me a free copy of the book.

  27. 4 out of 5

    John Lynch

    The Cult Called Freedom House is the debut novel by Stephanie Evelyn. The book follows both Sophia Rey and a teenager named Samantha. Samantha runs away from home and finds herself a member of Freedom House. As she quickly makes her way up the ranks, Sophia must save Samantha before it’s too late. There’s a lot to enjoy about this book. First off, the subject matter. Cults are creepy, and Freedom House is no exception. The characters are interesting, and Evelyn did a nice job making you care about The Cult Called Freedom House is the debut novel by Stephanie Evelyn. The book follows both Sophia Rey and a teenager named Samantha. Samantha runs away from home and finds herself a member of Freedom House. As she quickly makes her way up the ranks, Sophia must save Samantha before it’s too late. There’s a lot to enjoy about this book. First off, the subject matter. Cults are creepy, and Freedom House is no exception. The characters are interesting, and Evelyn did a nice job making you care about both Sophia and Samantha. As we follow the two of them, the story maintains a good pace, quickly ushering you through some truly disgusting scenes on our way to the climax. As we journey towards the end, I did find a few things that bugged me, and ultimately held the story back a bit. There’s one very specific part, let’s just call it a point of no return, where Sophia made a very stupid decision and her reasoning behind it didn’t jive with me. I really don’t want to say anything more because of spoilers. Another issue I had was a character who played a part in Samanthas life went MIA for a bit, and when he reappeared it was for good reason, however I’d have liked to follow that character on his journey to that point, I think it would have made it more impactful. Other than that, I really have no complaints. Cults are fascinating, yet creepy things. If you have even a passing interest in cults, I’d definitely recommend this book. The book was very well written and edited, especially for a self published debut. The problems I had with the story didn’t ruin it for me, I simply felt they held a great story back from being amazing. I can’t wait for book 2!

  28. 5 out of 5

    Brennan LaFaro

    Readers, prepare yourselves, for The Cult Called Freedom House is now upon us. Stephanie Evelyn has unleashed her debut novel upon the world, and so long as you think you can take it, you don’t want to miss it. Evelyn introduces us to Officer Sophia Rey, our protagonist who comes with a bit of baggage. We get to know a bit of her backstory, but I suspect there may be more to unpack in future adventures. In this, the first book in the series, Sophia Rey is investigating the disappearance of a tee Readers, prepare yourselves, for The Cult Called Freedom House is now upon us. Stephanie Evelyn has unleashed her debut novel upon the world, and so long as you think you can take it, you don’t want to miss it. Evelyn introduces us to Officer Sophia Rey, our protagonist who comes with a bit of baggage. We get to know a bit of her backstory, but I suspect there may be more to unpack in future adventures. In this, the first book in the series, Sophia Rey is investigating the disappearance of a teenager named Samantha. Despite Rey being the titular character, we spend a great deal of time with Samantha. One does not find it over difficult to empathize with the situation Samantha is running from, or the one she’s walking into. We’ve all been that teenager looking for our place in the world. Maybe it’s the parent in me, but I found myself wanting to take Samantha under my wing. The story hinges on Sophia Rey going undercover to infiltrate Freedom House, not only to find Samantha, but to bare witness to any illegal activities the cult may be party to. The scenes where Sophia is initiated into the house, and makes attempts to contact her unit, are dynamically paced and terrifyingly tense. Then again, there are a lot of moments that are going to have you on the edge of your seat. This novel has all the makings of a bullet thriller, but what Evelyn puts her characters through knocks it much more neatly into the realm of horror. The book is full, seriously full, of bad things happening, and doing so in a graphic manner. The cult leader, Cyrus, is a miserable hunk of human being, that latter term being applied rather loosely. What makes his characterization work so well is how real he feels. Not to accuse Ms. Evelyn of anything as untoward as being part of a cult, but the novel reads like she certainly did her research. By the time you close this book, I expect you’ll find yourself stunned and emotionally ravaged. Also, please note that I’ve already anticipated you adding it to your wish list. If you have an interest in cult horror, or even if you just have a strong stomach and enjoy a horror story with well-developed characters, The Cult Called Freedom House needs to be on your radar. I, for one, can’t wait to see what horrors Stephanie Evelyn has to unveil to us next.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Kimberly Godwin

    Fourteen year old Samantha Watson is an abused young woman, longing to escape her drug addicted mother and her mother’s string of drug addicted and abusive boyfriends. Starving and alone, she takes to the streets to fill her days wandering the boardwalk area of Santa Cruz until she is found by a man on a grocery run from a group called Freedom House. He offers her a food, a safe place to live, and more importantly a chance for ultimate freedom. Detective Sophia Rey is haunted by the failure of a Fourteen year old Samantha Watson is an abused young woman, longing to escape her drug addicted mother and her mother’s string of drug addicted and abusive boyfriends. Starving and alone, she takes to the streets to fill her days wandering the boardwalk area of Santa Cruz until she is found by a man on a grocery run from a group called Freedom House. He offers her a food, a safe place to live, and more importantly a chance for ultimate freedom. Detective Sophia Rey is haunted by the failure of a past missing persons case involving a cult and the childhood disappearance of her little sister. Sophia’s guilt is funneled into her work but that doesn’t stop the nightmares or her anxiety. A string of possible child abductions lands in Sophia Rey’s case work with Samantha as the newest victim. Sophia has a gut feeling that the disappearances are centered around a commune in a house called, “Freedom House”. Against the advice of some of her fellow officers, Sophia volunteers to go undercover to find Samantha before it goes too late. The Cult called Freedom House follows multiple points of view, Sophia, Samantha, and Samantha's mentor. At its core, it’s a story of trauma and abuse. I felt that the opening chapter ruined the surprise of what was to come later but it could also be perceived as Hitchcock’s method of building suspense of letting the audience know that there is a bomb under the table when the characters in the story don’t. Or it could also be argued that there was a lack of subtly to this first short chapter. I couldn’t find our 14 year old protagonist, Samantha interesting. I thought her background was sad and she deserved something better but aside from enthusiastically jumping at the chance to belong at Freedom House, there was no apprehension towards living in the commune with all the odd things she had to do. Cyrus, the cult leader, didn’t particularly say anything moving or do anything profound in Samantha's indoctrination scenes. You only got to see the superficial aspects of some of the other cult members so it felt shallow. I felt Sophia was more interesting of a character and I wanted to spend more time with her. Now, this story is gory but much of the traumatic events are hidden behind euphemism and occur off screen, which could be a plus or minus depending on how you feel about the literary portrayals of abuse. This was a relatively quick read and the chapters are short with a lack of flowery prose to bulk up the pages. It made this an easy read and left it to the reader to fill in the gaps in their imagination. This being said certain terms were repeated to annoying effect. I felt that using the word “darkness” 11 times across 2 ebook pages is a bit excessive but I have felt that pain of needing a synonym myself. My other issue with this book was the pacing. The first half had the right amount of lingering dread to make it suspenseful as we waited for the proverbial bomb to explode. The second half… we don’t have time to really feel any particular way about how things start to unfold before something else happens. I’m for a fast second half as we rush to our conclusion but with the chapters so short, major events were happening and then skipping forward. Reading the other reviews, it seems the audience is split between loving it or not. It’s a great first effort but I felt that Evelyn (also known as Sterp) could have used some more editing guidance to tighten up the second half of her book. I enjoy true crime stories, cult stories and other books in this genre of horror but I did not like this book. I didn’t have to force myself to finish it nor did I find it impossible to finish. There was enough going on to hold my interest until the end even if I didn’t like it. This was an interesting debut novel for Sterp and I wish her the best as she continues in her writing journey. I look forward to her next book about Sophia Rey and seeing how much she has grown since this novel. Gory, and disturbing The Cult Called Freedom House is a chilling addition to the genre.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Ellen | DHR Blog Avigliano

    Where do I even begin?! “The Cult Called Freedom House” is a stunning debut novel from Stephanie Evelyn (aka Sterp). It was one hell of a crazy ride from its first page to its last. It is a smart, fast paced, edge-of-your-seat detective murder-mystery thriller, and one you won’t want to put down. At its core though, it truly is a horror novel, and make no mistake, this is not a book for the faint of heart. “The Cult Called Freedom House” is what you would get if the old school “Wicker Man” and e Where do I even begin?! “The Cult Called Freedom House” is a stunning debut novel from Stephanie Evelyn (aka Sterp). It was one hell of a crazy ride from its first page to its last. It is a smart, fast paced, edge-of-your-seat detective murder-mystery thriller, and one you won’t want to put down. At its core though, it truly is a horror novel, and make no mistake, this is not a book for the faint of heart. “The Cult Called Freedom House” is what you would get if the old school “Wicker Man” and every episode of “Law & Order: SVU” had a love child, and then that child was raised by “Silence of the Lambs”. It’s weird and over the top, and you know what? I am so here for it; I was so engrossed I finished it in a single day! “TCCFH” follows Officer Sophia Rey, a police woman with a troubled past, and Samantha, a 14 year old runaway from a broken home. Samantha seeks comfort, solace, and stability and is the perfect target for any Cult. Officer Rey wants to save the world to fill the hole in her life that a desperate loss created, and that drive is what makes her the perfect candidate to go up against the cult. I’m not going to rehash smaller details or give yet another summary, because the less you know about the plot and what’s coming the better off you are. Truly, half the fun of wading through these dark waters is not being able to see they’re shark infested! Fair warning to the squeamish: there is a lot of potentially triggering content within these pages. This book has some truly brutally violent scenes, a fair amount of uncomfortable sexual content, domestic/child abuse, body horror, and....well... Anything else more specific would really be a spoiler. Suffice it to say I almost lost my lunch a few times, but was too emotionally invested in the story to let that deter me from continuing on at a rapid pace. (One may also in general consider me a glutton for punishment, or perhaps a reader with a masochistic side who likes to suffer for the sake of The Art HAHA!) The characters and their motivations are realistic and plausible, and well-crafted. Main characters Sophia and Samantha are relatable, sympathetic. They make great examples of how trauma affects everyone, but each of us process it in wildly different ways to cope with its existence. The villains are about as low-down and dirty as you could ever want; they are some of literature’s most lecherous, vile, despicable creatures! Cyrus and his crew are repugnant, despicable, and truly heinous, and their actions are reprehensible. Freedom House itself is located in beautiful, sunny, laid-back California which makes an interesting backdrop for a creepy, sinister cult itself. California warmth and sunshine are a stark contrast to the scary underbelly of this cult. The hippie chic aesthetic of Freedom House is bright and “whatever man” on the outside, but lurking deep within its walls are the most horrific and harrowing of scenes. This book is clearly well-researched and the cult lore/principles are firmly rooted in reality, which quite frankly only aids the terror. As with any cult, the manipulation tactics of the members within Freedom House are expertly employed on one another as well as new recruits. What appears to be a welcoming, free-flowing family on the surface really has its own terrible secrets at its center. Unlike other horror or crime novels I have previously read, the disturbing sexual content is not used as erotic fodder which I found to be a refreshing change of pace. Sexual content used as a plot device is there to add realism and drive home the point of just how awful humans can really be to one another. The abuses and behaviors the characters face are not glorified for simple entertainment value. Even the most brutal scenes are finessed in such a way that readers understand the implication of an action’s consequences, but never witness “The Act Itself.” The real terror throughout is the terrifying psychological impact on the characters and the reader as together we witness the unfolding of each salacious event. All of these ingredients together make for a truly delicious debut novel that you can really sink your teeth into. Make no bones about it, Stephanie Evelyn is pouring a solid foundation to cement herself as one of the greats in horror/thriller writing. She truly has a gift! The second installment in the Sophia Rey series is arriving in early 2020, and I seriously cannot wait to get my hands on it. I received a copy of this text from the author for consideration. Ellen Avigliano, November 2019

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