Tag Archives: Thunderstorm Books

Chaos

I had the pleasure of hearing Mary SanGiovanni read from Chaos at the Scares That Care! convention a few months ago. After the reading (and much discussion about haunted mental asylums, creepy places, and eyebrow bugs), I got a copy.

The tone, style, and vibe of the book took me back to 80’s pulp horror, though the setting is contemporary.

Chaos tells the story of Bridgewood Estates, built upon the grounds that were once home to Bridgewood Asylum before it was torn down. The asylum once being the setting for a grotesque and horrific explosion of violence. Now, only the old office ward remains. Unluckily for the tenants, something evil still stains the grounds, and has for decades.

Upon moving in, Myrinda and her boyfriend are greeted warmly by the neighbors. The old lady across the hall nervously extols the virtues of the place, but then the things that haunt the building loosen her nerve and she tries to warn Myrinda about what she’s moved into.

And soon the other residents begin to have their own sinister encounters: the writer who begins seeing the woman shambling in the yard, without feet or hands; the ex-cop who begins a blood-drenched courtship with the mysterious woman in 2-C, a courtship of sticky notes and gifts of flesh; the man who is ordered to murder his wife by the man on the TV. All of these characters and events weave a tale of paranoia and terror.

Bridgewood is the site of a hole between dimensions and the neighbors that are coming through are far from friendly. They’re insane and malicious. It will take all the courage the young couple can muster to try to resolve things before it’s too late for them and the other dwellers of Bridgewood Estates.

Having read a few of SanGiovanni’s earlier works and enjoyed them, I found Chaos to be a bit different. Whether or not it was intentional this seemed to have a nostalgic sense about it. As I stated at the opening, it reminded me of the “evil in a small town” kind of novels I devoured as a teen (and sometimes as an adult): Salem’s Lot, The Wicked, The Ceremonies…that sort of thing.

The writing is strong and vivid, with well-drawn characters and events. It was a great B-movie of a novel, fun and frightening. Probably excellent with popcorn.

Chaos is available directly through www.marysangiovanni.com.

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Waiting Out Winter

Nick and his cronies have been out of town on their yearly summer hunting excursion. They return to civilization to find things changed. The streets are devoid of any signs of life. Windows boarded up or covered in plastic. A stop at a gas station and the subsequent encounter with a sickly old man only escalates their dread and growing unease.

They arrive to their town to find it much like the others they’ve traveled through: desolate, empty and aching. They find their own homes boarded up and foreboding. Upon reconnecting with their families they learn what is behind the drastic changes in the atmosphere and demeanor of the town, the people—them. The small culprits will not be easy to avoid but if they can just hold out until winter…

Kelli Owen speaks with a very stern voice in this nervy tale of man messing with nature with dire consequences. You can tell from the writing that there is a great angry passion here, flowing from the writer to what is written. Which is not to say it is handled in a heavy-handed manner, quite the opposite, it plays out so realistically and understated that you almost don’t realize you’re getting a slim sermon while being frightened by what’s buzzing in the sink.

Waiting Out Winter is available through Kelli Owen’s official website.

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Die, You Badass Bubbles, Die!

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.

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