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Tag Archives: Horror
Women are fascinating, and for a man, they’re also quite confusing. Because of this, one of the things I love in literature is when you’re handed insight into the mind of the opposite sex. It’s like being given a silver decoder ring, only now you have to figure out how to use it. (Yeah, there’s excitement in the unknowing, too, similar to putting together one of those monochrome puzzles.)
The story is told from the point of view of a peculiar girl named Scarborough (Scree to those who know her), who grows up on an apple orchard in Maine. Raised by her mom and stepdad, she has a rather mundane, if not comfortable, childhood. That is until a tragedy comes about (one that is ostensibly young Scree’s fault), leaving her one parent short. Scree comes to long for something other than what she has known her whole life. She feels trapped, and when her brother comes back, his girlfriend pregnant, Scree is dead set against that poor baby being confined in the same life she has been subjected to.
The girl saves up her money working at a restaurant, steals the child, and then flees, ending up in an odd yet opulent resort. It is here that the bulk of the tale takes place, as Scree is haunted by strange visions while she tries to learn to be happy, to find love, and make peace with her guilt.
This truly is a wonderful tale, completely feminine in the best of ways. Some might find the storytelling to be languid, or even meandering at times, but that’s only because Schoonover dives headlong into her character, letting the reader get to know Scree in an intimate way. We know her thoughts, her longings and fears, and since the story is told from her viewpoint, the clues as to what is actually happening are hidden in plain sight, beneath the miasma of Scree’s desires.
As I said earlier, this is an insightful novel. It might not be an illustration of all women (or girls, as the case may be), but in the specific instance of Scree, Schoonover manages to create a sort of everywoman, one who’s believable despite the fantastic situation she finds herself in. She’s a female character that isn’t simply a reflection of the men around her, one that indeed longs for love and affection yet also strives to become powerful and independent, and it is that inner struggle that drives the book’s plot. And the author also does something quite strange for a work of fiction such as this: the settings, even the previously mentioned ritzy resort she finds herself in, are presented in an ordinary, almost dreary manner. It is the character’s interactions and viewpoints that matter, what she makes of the setting rather than what the setting actually is, that gives it depth.
As you can plainly see, I adored this book…until the very end. At that point the author uses a writing convention that is tantamount to cheating in order to manipulate the reader’s view of the story being told. I hate to be vague about it, but to give away what happens in the very last section would be to give away the twist ending, which would be a shame. However, I was slightly disappointed when I came across this last bit, and felt it took a little of the power away from the tale. Which was a shame.
That being said, it didn’t dishearten me enough to alter my view of what came before. I still feel Bad Apple is a powerful and enlightening tale, and in the end, I think the author was painted into a corner by just how personal a story it is. Tell the tale in third person, and my problems with the ending disappear…yet at the same time, the intimacy of the first-person narrative is lost. It’s a no-win situation at best.
In closing, I give this book a hearty recommendation. There are worse sins an author can commit, such as telling a substandard story. And Bad Apple is certainly not that.
Marta is a bitchy ball-buster who knows Felix will do anything for her. Although unsure of Marta’s plan to cross into Mexico to film a documentary about illegal immigrants, he agrees to help her, as Marta knew he would. She is also hoping to find out what happened to her parents, from whom she was separated as a little girl.
She plans to wear a tiny camera, set into a crucifix, around her neck, which will provide feedback to Felix’s computer.
After one of their frequent fights, Marta takes off into Mexico, leaving Felix behind. But Marta, while tough, is no match for the crazy family that kidnaps her before she can cross back into America. Not only do they want her to mate with the mentally-challenged but insanely strong son, they have kidnapped others who will provide meat for their taco stand.
Marta realizes this and is horrified because she had eaten at the stand earlier that day—yet she is also craving the forbidden food when its aroma envelops the house. She also has to fight for her life against the giant son, who is a wrestler—but he doesn’t go up against other wrestlers. His opponents are Mexicans trying to get to the border, and are no match for the brutality they find themselves trying to survive.
Felix realizes Marta is in danger and does everything he can to get to her. But will he be successful or sautéed?
This is extreme horror at its best. It’s suspenseful, nasty, and completely disgusting. I loved it. Shane McKenzie doesn’t pull his punches; he lets his readers have it without one shred of remorse.
Muerte Con Carne is another literary knife to the gut from a great author.
Carol Gunderson’s ex-husband stalks her almost every day. If he’s not harassing her, then he’s got one of his creepy friends doing it. Finally reaching her breaking point, Carol convinces her sister Brenda to get out of town for a canoe trip.
But Carol doesn’t realize her ex knows where she’s going, and won’t let her get away that easily.
However, Mitch isn’t the worst that Carol and Brenda will encounter. An old man lives in a weird cabin deep in the woods. The old man has terrible thoughts, and acts upon them with the help of his unnatural dog.
When Carol and Brenda get lost after their canoe tips, they are drawn to the cabin in search of food and shelter. At first Meyer is very welcoming, and the women feel safe, knowing they will probably be rescued soon.
As the days pass, though, they realize something is very wrong with Meyer and in the cabin. And there is someone—or something—in the basement that doesn’t want them to leave.
Northwoods Deep, by Joel Arnold, is a great story, evil and frightening. The suspense will have you turning the pages, reluctant to stop reading until you find out what will happen to Carol and Brenda. There are a lot of twists and turns, and once you find yourself attached to certain characters, you may even find yourself yelling “No!” at times. The story will draw you in that much.
The last story I read by Arnold, Death Rhythm, was an ominous tale, but quiet, almost elegant. Northwoods Deep is different—nasty, scary, and relentless. I loved it.
The Horror Society is an online group where like-minded writers, artists, editors and other professionals meet to discuss their love of all things horror. Dangers Untold is an anthology conceived by Scott Goriscak and edited by Jennifer Brozek. This anthology does not contain the usual monsters; rather, the editor wanted unusual monsters and situations, and the contributing authors delivered.
The anthology starts with a great story, “Haunted,” by Erik Scott de Bie. A man sees his life in mental snapshots, conversations and interactions burned into his brain. He cannot escape them, or edit them; he constantly relives every embarrassment, every mistake he’s made. When his girlfriend tells him something he knows he’ll never be able to forget, he takes care of the newly-made memory in a horrific way.
If you’re afraid of flying, that fear will be reinforced big-time when you read Jason V Brock’s “Black Box.” Remember the episode of The Twilight Zone that featured William Shatner as an airplane passenger who saw a gremlin on the wing? In “Black Box,” that was based on a true story—and it’s happening again.
You wouldn’t think that cute and cuddly stuffed animals could be creepy, but you’d be wrong. In “Innards,” by Erik Gustafson, a little girl discovers that her toy animals come to life—but not in the cute, Disney kind of way. These plushy animals have TEETH.
The last story, “Man with a Canvas Bag,” by Gary Braunbeck, is gut-wrenching, especially if you’re a parent. I can’t really tell much without giving a lot away, so I’ll just say that this story is the best one in a book of great tales. It’s obvious what’s going to happen, but you’re powerless not to read it because it’s so gripping. Fantastic story.
Dangers Untold is one of the best anthologies I’ve read this year, put out by a little group a lot of people haven’t heard of yet. If you love anthologies as much as I do, this is one you definitely need to add to your collection.
Sometimes in one’s life, you run across an author whose vision you see clearly, as if your minds are somehow connected across the vast expanse of the universe. The author’s voice resonates in your mind, the words he or she places upon the written page are the entirety of your hopes and dreams, your nightmares, your fears, your sorrows, your ideals, and perhaps the longing for a happy ending that you know your own life may not have in store.
For myself, that author is Ben Duiverman. The man has captured my soul, has given to me a mirror through which I can gaze and see the humanity that lies within with startling clarity. His writing is that of a fever dream, a never-ending kaleidoscope of terror, introspection, and eventual acquiescence that permeates my own thoughts each and every day.
What Happened Here? is a collection of seventeen stories, each of which ponder the universal questions that we all ask daily. Be it a question of duty, as in “The Sweeper” or “Lost Over Tokyo,” or the issue of culpability and its price, be it historical or otherwise, and its grip over our hearts, like “The Gathering Place” (the greatest story in the entire book), “The Battle of the Bulge,” “Never Late for Work,” or “An Unnatural Death,” each story resonating, building upon the next, constructing a wall of emotional bricks that, by the time you are done reading, is destined to be torn down.
There are inquiries into the depths of darkness that reside in the hearts and minds of each of us, such as “Trick or Treat,” “The Circus Is in Town,” “A Family Portrait,” and “My Domain.” And there are even those that cast a critical eye on society itself, like the deliciously haunting “Dining with Sharks.” And with “Bogeymen,” perhaps the most frightening of all the stories, the author paints (literally and figuratively) the image of the fate which may await us all, and illustrates with startling ambiguity how we very well may be the unwitting authors of our own demise. As in “A Two-Way Street” and “Cruel and Unusual Punishment,” selfishness leads to self-wrought destruction, the bane of man since the beginning of the human race.
This volume, published by the author himself, is truly a great and worthwhile read. It is a paragon of creation and subsequent deconstruction, a masterful work of art using the written word to tear down what we know of reality and to then build it once more in ways we may not have thought of before. Duiverman is a master storyteller, an author with something to say, whose own inner turmoil is laid out for the whole world to see, if we should be brave enough to take that leap along with him. Reading this was a unique and wholly rewarding experience for this reviewer, and it is my hope that any who stumble across this review will take the plunge as well.
Earlier this year, Jan Kozlowski delivered her debut novella, Die, You Bastard! Die, via Ravenous Shadows, an imprint where every book is handpicked by John Skipp. This fact alone should be enough for most horror fans to take note, but if it isn’t let me up the ante: This book is hardcore!
Claire is a paramedic, and a damn good one at that, one who has spent her adult life trying to make up for and forget her childhood.
The novella opens with her and her partner answering a disturbing call: A little girl trapped beneath the body of a naked man. This case, coupled with a phone call, drags Claire back to the horrific events of her childhood and a lifetime of dark and dastardly suffering at the hands of her father.
Her father has been hospitalized, and in answering the call Claire is drawn into a warped scenario of revenge and double-cross and some of the most disturbing tactics ever committed to the printed page.
Ravenous Shadows debuted with a lofty promise of nearly forty titles a year, but sadly hit the wall after only five. Other than Jan’s, I have only read Adam Cesare’s wonderful Tribesmen, although I intend to track down and read the remaining titles.
Maybe after this unspecified hiatus Ravenous can get all oars in the water again and keep the line flowing. I truly hope so, but if not I am already grateful for being turned on to a pair of great authors I hope to follow for quite some time.
Dybbuk Press dropped this little collection, edited by Michael Stone and Christopher J. Hall, way back in 2006. Consisting of seven stories, all poised to slap you in the face and hopefully knock out a few teeth. It was a promise I found sadly unfulfilled.
We open with the tale “Pool Sharks,” by Gerald Brennan. This is more or less hood-heavy, thug drama with a simple ghost-story twist ending. Not a bad story, but not anything a veteran watcher of Twilight Zone would not have seen coming. Next up is Garry Kilworth’s “The Stray,” a strange little number that is heavy with metaphor and satirical symbolism. Quite clever at times and a little silly at others, I rather enjoyed it. Michael Hemmingson’s “Hardboiled Stiff” is an overlong exercise in noir and the undead.
Ronald Malfi’s story, “All the Pretty Girls,” is my favorite. What we get is a darkly strange and spiritual tale of a man working to appease his god—in a very sinister fashion. Gord Rollo gives us a standard evil-tattoo tale in “Moving Pictures,” while Davin Ireland delivers “The Essences,” a story with an almost-dark-fantasy vibe. Closing out the collection is Michael Boatman’s gory “Bloodbath at Lansdale Towers,” a morality tale with a knifey twist.
While I did enjoy Badass Horror, only Malfi’s made me stand and say, “Wow!” Overall I couldn’t help but feel there was not enough “badass.” But I was entertained and could not call the evening spent reading this a disappointment.
Before reading Black Bubbles, released by Thunderstorm Books, earlier this year, I was familiar with Kelli Owen only by name, having never read her work. After reading Black Bubbles, I can say that Owen is a very good writer of dark fiction.
Reliant on character over shock and awe, I found this collection to be good, with several stories hanging on the cusp of “Holy shit, this is brilliant!” There was, however, one story that floored me. So much so that I have re-read it at least five times since the initial read, and given the amount of stories I read a year, that is saying something.
I won’t go over all of the tales, but will touch upon a few that I dug. “The Tin Box” is a familiar theme but the angle and delivery are what makes this a standout. The passing of a grandparent opens up an atmosphere of reminiscence and love…until they find evidence of family secrets best left hidden. “Shadows in a Bowl of Soup” is a wonderful prose piece. “Dig the Hole” is a fantastic slice of dark reality. A groovy little violent satire on therapy and sociopaths comes in the name of “How’s That Make You Feel?”
But “Spell” is the one. THE ONE! This story punched me in the face, wiped the blood from my lips, and then drew a big L on my forehead for not having expected it. Simply amazing story. I’m not even going to mention its plot as that would be a disservice to it.
Black Bubbles is a solid collection. While some stories were very strong, and others seemed like they could have been a bit more fleshed out, I liked every one. I hope to check out more of Kelli’s work in the future.
I was quite honored when Graham Masterton asked me to review his new novel. And I’m so glad he did, because this is a great book.
This is a Sissy Sawyer Mysteries book, but don’t worry if you haven’t read any of the series before. This works very well as a stand-alone story, but it will make you want to read the other books in the series because Sissy is a wonderful character.
Sissy is a widowed fortune-teller who uses De Vane cards to help her solve mysteries. In The Red Hotel, Sissy is introduced to her step-nephew’s friend T-Yon, whose brother Everett has recently bought an old hotel in Baton Rouge and restored it to its former glory. T-Yon has been having disturbing dreams about her brother and the hotel and reaches out to Sissy to find out what is going on. In the meantime, Everett is dealing with the mysterious death of a hotel maid and other inexplicable happenings making the hotel’s grand opening a nightmare. Sissy and T-Yon fly to Baton Rouge to help figure out the goings-on and dispel any angry spirits that might be about.
The Red Hotel takes the reader along into a creepy hotel full of disappearing specters, gruesome murders, and voodoo. The malevolent spirit, Vanessa Slider, is pissed, and she is determined to see T-Yon and Everett dead. After T-Yon disappears in the hotel, Sissy must move quickly to find her before Vanessa exacts her revenge.
I enjoyed this book very much. This was my first Sissy Sawyer book, but it definitely won’t be my last. I’ve been reading Graham Masterton since I was a teenager, and this has become one of my favorite Masterton books. If you’re looking for a fun, intriguing mystery, look no further than The Red Hotel.
If you have kids—or maybe when you were a kid yourself—R.L. Stine was a reading fixture. His Goosebumps series encouraged kids to read for years. I even read a few of my kids’ copies, and also played the HorrorLand computer adventure game—which featured Jeff Goldblum!
So when I was offered the opportunity to review Stine’s new novel, Red Rain, for adults, I jumped at the chance. He’s now reaching out to those kids who grew up with his books.
Lea Sutter is a travel blogger who takes a trip to Cape Le Chat Noir, a small island off the coast of South Carolina. The island is said to harbor both the living and the dead—they exist together in an uneasy peace. Shortly after Lea arrives, a nasty hurricane hits the island. In the aftermath, Lea walks along the beach when she is besieged by a blood rain—red rain. Two little boys emerge from the rain, lost and alone. Lea takes them back home with her, wanting to adopt the orphaned twins.
Her husband and other children aren’t thrilled, but they try to welcome the boys into their home. Then weird things, bad things start happening. Although Lea’s husband Mark begins to suspect there is something very wrong with the boys, Lea won’t hear any of it. And all she can think about is the death and destruction she saw on the island.
Then Mark is accused of a gruesome murder and the kids in the town go missing—and the Sutters’s lives are turned upside down.
Red Rain is a great story. It kept me turning the pages; it was hard to put down. The ending was unexpected and really made the book. Although it wasn’t scary, there were definitely creepy moments. The story reminded me a lot of Thomas Tryon’s The Other, another great story about freaky twins.
Although one of the blurbs on the back cover says to “Keep this book far, far away from your kids” (Douglas Preston), it’s really not inappropriate for kids fourteen and up. This is the perfect book for introducing older Goosebumps readers to more adult horror without screwing them up for life, like say a Jack Ketchum book would.
This is more of a creepy mystery than an outright horror. Definitely an excellent read, and I hope R.L. Stine continues to write for us adults.
The Frequency Brothers is a rock band on the cusp of great success. After a sold-out concert in Texas, they board their small private plane to go to a video shoot in New York. But their plane goes down in a forest and they end up fighting for survival—not only due to injuries, but because there is something in the forest stalking them.
At first the creature just takes their dead—but why? And where are they being taken?
The answers to these questions are frightening, especially as one by one they are led away from the relative safety of the crash site to a sinkhole in the middle of the forest that contains something horrifying.
Will any of them make it out of the forest alive?
Down, Nate Southard’s fifth and latest novel, is an exciting and creepy adventure story. The description of the plane crash is realistic and scary. (I’m glad I didn’t read this before flying to Las Vegas for KillerCon!) The first half of the book had me riveted; however, I was a little disappointed in the second half.
Once the story got into the supernatural, it fell a little flat. That aspect of the story made little sense, and was never explained. There was no reason given for the monster’s existence, what the symbols were for, and how the pit/sinkhole came to being.
But overall, Down is a good story, one most horror lovers would enjoy. This is the first I’ve read of Nate Southard, but I’m looking forward to more of his work.
Down is available through Sinister Grin Press, and other online retailers.
There is nothing more pleasurable than becoming so engrossed in a book that, at the end, I look out the window and wonder: What happened to the sun? What time is it?
I consumed Wrath James White’s Sacrifice (Sinister Grin Press, September 2011) in one sitting. White is quickly becoming one of my new favorite horror writers, and for good reason. Known for his extreme take on the genre, this book has everything for anyone who enjoys that overwhelming feeling of uneasiness, like bugs crawling over your skin, and you can never seem to brush them off.
The story starts with a bang, and never relents. After a man’s eerie encounter with a young girl, his dog (along with nearly every other living creature around) eats him alive. Detective John Malloy, Las Vegas Homicide, hurries to the scene, only to find that there is little left of the man’s body. None of it makes sense. Weird cases like these are the ones he hates the most, and though this isn’t the weirdest he’s seen, it ranks right up there.
The bodies start piling up, each one attacked and eaten by animals, insects, and children. And, if he didn’t already have enough on his plate, he and his partner, Mohammed Rafik, are assigned to a series of missing persons cases involving little girls. When they hear about a voodoo princess named Delilah, who may have the power to remove people’s fears and anger, Malloy believes his cases are connected, and this woman might be the key to how.
With over-the-top gore and violence, White delivers a tale that will leave his readers begging for Delilah to come and take their fears away. Yet, when I finished the book, I felt strangely satisfied—a feeling delivered by only a handful of the contemporary horror writers I have read.
If you’ve got the stomach to handle the blood and guts of White’s extreme horror, this is definitely a book you want to read.