Sunday, March 3, 2024

Blood Bank — A Very Short Review of a book by various horror authors

 

Cover image courtesy of
Blood Bound Books

It took me two years to get through this horror anthology of short stories that was published back in 2022, but that doesn’t make it any less worth your while. So let me justify the length of time.

I don’t give anthologies and short stories, in general, near the love that they deserve,  but they serve an essential purpose in my quest to keep reading — even if it’s only a little bit in a day. The short story anthology is the perfect book to leave on your nightstand when you know you have fifteen or twenty minutes, but you also know that you have to get up in the g*ddamned morning, and investing that time in a full length novel with its potential cliffhangers to push you past your designated lights out time is infeasible. Also, good for that quick dose of reading you might sneak in on a lunch break at work.

So, give the short story anthology some love, world! I was drawn to this horror collection for two reasons: Neil Gaiman, and a charitable cause. Gaiman's contribution, We Can Get Them For You Wholesale, does not disappoint. But there are other horror authors to enjoy here too. I really enjoyed Jeff Strand's First Date, because horror with a healthy dose of humor often gets me. Kristopher Triana's Pictures of a Princess is creepy and disturbing as it tackles obsession, and Mona Kabbani's Cursed Objects hits a nerve with the desire to get even when you've been labeled as an outcast. Patrick Freivald's A Better Hate serves up some poignant Indigenous holiday horror, and The End of Time on Rosewyld Lane, by Jay Wilborn is heartbreakingly excellent.

This short story collection has a number of snippets that you might love, or even hate, but it’s a solid collection of horror, and the proceeds go to a good cause—a literacy program called Read Better, Be Better, out of Arizona.

So, check this anthology from Blood Bound Books out! It encourages reading for everyone, whether it’s in support of reading programs in general or whether it’s just you or me trying to get a little bit of reading in on a daily basis.

Wednesday, February 7, 2024

The Third Installment of the Stephen Graham Jones Lake Witch Trilogy is HERE! (Almost…)

If you're looking for that next horror book preorder, and if reading My Heart is a Chainsaw and Don’t Fear the Reaper left a ragged hole in your heart because you needed more, well… The third and final (as of now) installment is heading to bookstores this March, and the chance to preorder is now.
Cover photo courtesy of Saga Press
Cover Photo courtesy of Saga Press

I was ever so fortunate to acquire an advanced copy, and I’m popping up this review now, so that you beautiful horror minded people can keep it on your radar. Because you are beautiful. The horror community, in general, is one of the best, right? Anyway, book review, below:

I was super excited to be granted an ARC copy of this book, the third in the Lake Witch trilogy written by Stephen Graham Jones. The first two books, My Heart is a Chainsaw, and Don’t Fear the Reaper were big, splattery tales of slashers gone wild, with metadoses of pop horror culture Easter eggs to lure in the hardcore horror movie fans. Or even the softcore ones. Angel is no different in this regard. It is often times an exploded, pulpy mess of confusion, but that’s what the truest forms of the horror genre are, I suppose. Lots of twisted trails of our blood soaked nightmares. I'm trying too hard to evoke images of guts and gore, I know. But that’s what the trilogy is; Jade Daniels, the Native American final girl who can never be that. A final girl. 


This story brings Jade back to Proofrock, the idyllic little lakeside community in Idaho that has become one of  America's top destinations for murder. Jade returns after being incarcerated for her crimes from the first two books, and after enduring some state mandated therapy. But she’s out and she’s back, and she’s snagged a teacher position at her old high school, thanks to online college courses and friends with money in high places. As Jade pops pills to help her stay sane, it happens again. Students go missing, wind up dead, and ultimately have a connection with Jade and her obsession with horror.


I feel like Jones felt the pressure of having to top the frenetic pacing of books one and two here, but as is the case with many a part three story ( especially in film), the attempt doesn’t always hit the mark. This does not mean that I wasn’t entertained. Far from it… But some of the deaths/mayhem felt gratuitous. And by gratuitous, I mean deaths that just happened without provocation. I’m talking Tucker and Dale level accidents. Some of the deaths were certainly unexpected but also random, as in Final Destination random, but they didn’t feel intrinsic here.


That having been said, I feel like the number of relevant shocks and surprises outweighed the baseless ones. Favorite characters are not safe here, and the first one to go (for me) had me shouting “you bastard," at Jones—in a good way. We see everything from Jade's POV, which can be challenging because she’s not a linear thinker, but it’s true to character so be prepared. Also, reading the first two books is essential.


I think two of my favorite things about how this story was laid out, were the asides written by an investigative firm about Jade's mental state and progress after jail (yes, Mr. Jones, sir. I’m calling it jail too), and the one story thread that had me comparing Jade to Ripley in Aliens. If there is one person to focus on saving, that’s the one.


And finally, thanks to Mr. Jones and Saga Press for providing the ARC. It was one wild ride!


Tap the link here to purchase from Amazon. OR tap here to purchase from Bookshop.org

Friday, January 5, 2024

First Book Review of 2024 -- Because Internet: Understanding the New Rules of Language -- by Gretchen McCulloch

Cover image courtesy of
Penguin Random House/Riverhead Books

 

My oldest son gave this book to me one Christmas, many many years ago, ;) ... and I've been gradually getting through it to the point where the new rules of language don't necessarily feel that new. My bad. Seriously it is, because while it took me nearly two years to finish this book, I actually did enjoy it.


My nonfiction reading generally tends to be historical research necessary for writing historical fiction. I am predominantly a fiction reader with fiction review goals, while my son... is not. Still, we manage to have meaningful conversations within an extended family that spans from the Silent Generation to the future--what are they, Alphas, now? I don't know yet, but the internet plays its role in keeping us together in spite of our vast differences when it comes to social media language. We share memes and catchphrases, movie quotes, and we often ask questions like "WTF is FUBAR?" or "What do you mean, 'You lost the game?' What game?" (For those who just lost the game, you're welcome...)


Language is meant to evolve, and this book breaks down why we need to accept this by focusing on the evolution of internet and social media language in particular. It gives a little nod to every generation for the complex nature of evolving language and their role in its progress. It might give older generations a better perspective on why, say, a period after a texted sentence is potentially a faux pas. Personally as a writer, I'm not fully accepting of the elimination of punctuation in text threads. Sue me. I was born before '69 (nice). But with the internet influence on the ever evolving fluidity of our language, maybe those Millennials, Gen Zs and Alphas (?) will one day change their minds. Gen X and the Boomers can only hope.

Click on the cover image to purchase through Amazon.

Friday, December 29, 2023

Final Review of the Year — Melinda West: Monster Gunslinger by K. C. Grifant

Cover image courtesy of 
Brigids Gate Press
Illustrated by Luke Spooner

Who remembers that old sci-fi western Wild Wild West, with Will Smith and Kevin Kline? Or if you’re really into ancient entertainment viewing, who remembers the TV series that inspired it? Well, if either of those versions of Wild Wild West were ever your cup of tea, then Melinda West: Monster Gunslinger will be a treat. 

Granted, this is less of a sci-fi story and more of a pulpy horror western, but the crossover vibes are similar. This is a plot-centric piece of storytelling with a touch of steampunk flavor for fans of, say… Supernatural. And I am a fan of Supernatural

Author K. C. Grifant has woven a tale of monster hunters, pleasantly diverse ones, in an alt western world that resonates with parallels to our own American wild West history. She creates sympathetic villains and morally gray heroes out for justice—for themselves— and against an underworld they have yet to understand for its horrific power. It’s not necessarily deep, but it’s well written and fun. A welcome diversion for fans of multi genre pulp fiction. 

I want to thank the author for providing this ARC to potential HWA readers. Click on the cover image for a link to Amazon.

Saturday, December 9, 2023

Sing Our Bones Eternal -- A Darkly Poetic Mermaid Folktale

 

Cover Image courtesy of
author

Sing Our Bones eternal is a richly drawn fantasy where seafaring Bluebeards hunt mermaids to sacrifice to their god, a magical tree named Kilda who will grant favor for those sacrifices. Senga is the primary character, the daughter of one such hunter, and a hunter herself, although she’s going through a major identity crisis, believing that bewitching may have occurred to transform her from mermaid to human.

Abilene, a mermaid captured by Senga's family for the purpose of sacrifice, spends time with Senga while in captivity, and she is more than willing to convince Senga of the awful truth.

The author has a highly picturesque style of writing. The world these characters inhabit is drawn in splashy poetic—and often horrific detail. There’s no doubt that a lot of heart went into the telling of this story. It's a darkly detailed romantic fantasy that doesn’t shy away from themes of abuse, loss, sacrifice and sexual awakening, dressed in a folkloric world of mermaids and satyrs and werewolves.

But it can sometimes be hard to follow because of the rich style of writing. The story unfolds from multiple points of view that had me pausing to ratchet back, trying to remember who was who and what their connections were to the other characters in the story, and because of it, I often felt a bit disconnected from those characters. But for the right audience—that being dark romantic fantasy—this story is sure to entertain.

This is not the kind of story I normally choose, so take that into consideration when I rate this a four. It’s ultimately not my kind of story, but it’s well written on multiple levels, and I recognize that quality. I want to thank the author for providing this ARC.

Tap the cover image for a Goodreads link.