Welcome to my Corner! I specialize in Dark Fiction reviews including Horror, Dark Fantasy, Splatterpunk, Horror of the 70's & 80's, and Graphic Novels. I also read and review classics, true crime, thrillers and audio books of all genres except Romance.
CHASE DARKNESS WITH ME was sad, informative and interesting.
Sad because of the author's relationship with Michelle McNamara; together they worked on the Golden State Killer case. Informative because of the tips the author shares with readers on how to investigate crimes themselves and interesting because there are a lot of new ways where non professionals can help the real professionals solve a case.
As a true crime buff from way back, I enjoyed this audio and I'm thinking about following the author's podcast.
Thanks to Audible for the free Original with my membership.
SPUNGUNION! This book deserves all the stars, your time and your attention.
Deke is a truck driving man who returns home from an overnight run to find that his wife has been murdered. He cannot get over it. He's hanging on by a thread and I think he finally wants to let go, but he has questions that need answering first. Will he get those answers? Will he survive the weight of his grief? You'll have to read this to find out.
Immersed in the world of Deke's grief, riding with him in his 18 wheeler, listening to Waylon on the radio...I was there. I could smell the stale cigarette smoke, I could feel the air coming through the windows, (cracked open a bit so the smoke could escape)...I was there. I accompanied Deke on his search for knowledge, even though we both knew that the outcome wouldn't be good. I was there with Tiny, I was there with the behemoth and his small servant, I was there feeling the regret, feeling Deke's need to know. I was there.
Once again, John Boden has pierced my heart with his subtle wording, his outstanding writing, and his big, big heart.
"The reality is this: Life is just a balloon floating dangerously in a room full of cigarettes. At any moment, second, day or week, Pop! And then everything as you know it is different or gone. Sometimes both."
This is my second time reading SPUNGUNION, the first time was back in 2017. I love it just as much now as I did back then. Maybe more, because there have been some Pops! in my life since that time. Those Pops! make you more aware, make you more grateful, because for some like Deke, those Pops! can spell the end.
This version of SPUNGUNION features the same marvelous introduction from Bracken MacLeod, and it also features a brand new short story: THE DRAWER. It was fabulous, as is everything that flows out from John Boden's hand.
I'm so happy to say that this novella will now be available to everyone- and every fan of dark fiction needs to read it. You need to immerse yourself in it and let it surround you. You will be better for it in the end. Perhaps you'll be more grateful and content when you're done? Because you never know when that Pop! is going to come.
My highest recommendation!
Available on January 15th, but you can pre-order here: SPUNGUNION
*Thanks to John Boden for the e-ARC of this beautiful novella in exchange for my honest feedback. As always, this is it!*
THE TWISTED ONES was a nice take on folklore and an homage, (or is it a sequel?) to Arthur Machen's THE WHITE PEOPLE.
I loved the narrators of the story, (both the protagonist and the narrator of the audiobook), which went a long way towards my enjoyment. I think if I had read this, instead of listening, the repetition of certain phrases and certain behaviors regarding the protagonist and her dog would have gotten on my nerves a lot more.
I enjoyed THE TWISTED ONES mostly for the characters, I think, especially Foxy. She cracked me the hell up-maybe because I know people just like her? Full of surprises, sometimes vulgar, but always down to earth and willing to help.
Overall, I'm glad I joined the group read with the LADIES OF HORROR FICTION group over on Goodreads. I enjoyed chatting with them while we were reading.
*I bought this audiobook with my hard earned cash and this is my honest review.*
BLACK AMBROSIA is exactly what I hoped it would be, plus some! Here's the synopsis:
"Angelina is a killer. You'd never know it to look at her--until you look into her eyes. Angelina doesn't kill out of hatred or fear--she kills out of love, bringing solace to her victims, guided by the seductive Voice that speaks only to her. Angelina offers you eternal peace--at the cost of your soul!"
Quiet horror is more to my liking these days, and this book fits the bill. Don't get me wrong, violent and gory scenes appear throughout this book, but most of the picture comes from the reader's imagination rather than with blow-by-blow descriptions.
This review has to be rather general to avoid spoilers, but here I am going to wander into spoiler territory for just a moment. I'm a huge fan of a book called SOME OF YOUR BLOOD by Theodore Sturgeon. In a lot of ways this book reminded me of that one.
This book is horrific, no matter how you would answer that question.
Perhaps a little slow to get going, but once Angelina leaves home things start to pick up. The whole time leaving you wondering, is she or isn't she? I prefer to think she is, but you'll have to read this to find out!
Get your copy here: BLACK AMBROSIA
*Thanks to Valancourt Books for the e-copy of BLACK AMBROSIA in exchange for my honest feedback. This is it!*
After losing on a televised quiz show by giving an incorrect but bizarre answer, Brewster Gilligan's life continues to roll downhill. He doesn't realize it yet, but his wrong answer set in motion a series of powerful events-events that could change the world forever. Will the thoroughly unlikable Brewster be able to save the world? You'll have to read this and see!
I love books that revolve around themes like opening doors to other worlds, ripping through our reality to get the other side, and ancient organizations or cults whose only purpose is to make those doors open right now. THOSE WHO GO FORTH INTO THE EMPTY PLACES OF GODS is none of those, exactly, but it's close. I love this paragraph, from the introduction, talking about artists, (authors, musicians, etc...), getting random glimpses of things:
I do know, though, that when they reached down into the recesses of their brain buckets to pull an idea up from nothing, that a little of that nothing came back up with the idea. It's worming its way into existence, one story and one song at a time. Pretty soon there will be no nothing left on the other side.
The writing here is seamless and often beautiful. Also, it's concisely descriptive and gory as well. I found at times that scenes were unfurling in my head like a movie. Most especially one scene where all the guardians, (You'll see), strutted into town, (Sheba) like superheroes in a Marvel movie, or better yet, like something out of Tombstone.
Even though Brewster is a pompous jerk I couldn't help but feel for him and what he went through. I wish I could tell you that everything turned out all right. I wish I could tell you that the gate stayed closed and that humanity remained untouched, unharmed. Or maybe I'm lying to you right now, and it did stay closed? I guess you'll just have to read this to find out!
THOSE WHO GO FORTH INTO THE EMPTY PLACE OF GODS was my last read of 2019 and what a way to close out the year! If cosmic horror, or the themes I mentioned above are your cup of tea, then you need to add this book to your 2020 reading schedule.
*Available January 15th, but you can pre-order here: THOSE WHO GO FORTH INTO THE EMPTY PLACE OF GODS
*Thank you to Curtis Lawson and Douglas Rinaldi for the signed, paperback ARC in exchange for my honest feedback. This is it.*
Here is my listing of the novels that I enjoyed most in 2019.
Click the titles if you'd like to read my review.
THE FISHERMAN by John Langan. Not only is this my favorite book of the year, it's one of my favorite books of all time and a great example of cosmic, quiet horror.
GRIND YOUR BONES TO DUST by Nicholas Day.
Nicholas Day is a new-to-me author and this novel blew me away.
Beautifully written, dark and chaotic-Mr. Day is one to watch.
THE IMMACULATE VOID by Brian Hodge.
I've been a fan of his work for years and books like this are the reason why.
If you're a horror/dark fiction fan, you need to be familiar with Mr. Hodge.
HOLLOW KINGDOM by Kira Jane Buxton.
This was a phenomenal debut novel. It's not even really horror, but it defies neat labels. It's a tale of the zombie apocalypse from the point of view of a domesticated crow named Shit Turd. Yep. Shit Turd. This book will touch you and if it doesn't, you should see a doctor because something is wrong with you.
RATTLESNAKE KISSES by Robert Ford and John Boden.
A short novel, but there's a lot of feeling packed in there, as well as some funny, bloody laughs.
BRIDES OF HANOVER BLOCK by Gregor Xane.
Probably the most off the wall book I've read this year. Erotic, gross, funny and creepy all at once-I can't wait for the next installment!
IN THE VALLEY OF THE SUN by Andy Davidson.
This was another new to me author I discovered this year. I adored this book and the subtlety of it. It's a beautifully written story about...? The author never says the word and I won't either. (Now if the publisher would just approve me for his next book that'd be great! I hope you're reading this MCD x FSG Originals!)
A PENNY FOR YOUR THOUGHTS by Robert Ford and Matt Hayward.
This one gets the 2019 award for the funniest moment in prose. I'm still laughing about it.
THE WORST IS YET TO COME by S.P. Miskowski.
A tragically under-read author who writes scary, quiet horror that gets under your skin.
THE JOE LEDGER SERIES by Jonathan Maberry, read by Ray Porter.
No link because I've reviewed the books individually, but I've listened to this entire series this year, (except for the very last one). These audio books have helped me through a very tough time. I sometimes wonder if I would have made it through at all, without Joe Ledger keeping me company. Bravo to both the author and the narrator, because together? They are an unbeatable team.
Honorable Mention in Audios:
The Don Winslow series that started with THE POWER OF THE DOG and ended with THE BORDER. What a powerful and emotional ride these books were. Well researched and if you think about it? Some of the scariest books out there, not because they're horror books, but because they're based on some real life events.
Ray Porter reads these too and he is simply outstanding.
Here is a listing of the novellas I enjoyed most during 2019.
I love novellas and think they're one of the best ways to present dark fiction/horror tales. There is a bit more room to develop characters than in a short story, but due to the abbreviated length, every word still has to count. All of these authors knocked their stories out of the park!
(Looking over this completed list, it looks like I am partial to Darkness and to Freaks. Yeah, that sounds about right!)
Please click the links if you'd like to read my review.
1. COYOTE SONGS by Gabino Iglesias.
What an amazing novella! It had me ugly crying at some points, and cheering at others. You will not come away unmoved-you have my personal guarantee.
2. WHEN DARKNESS LOVES US by Elizabeth Engstrom.
I might be cheating a little bit because this volume contains two novellas. So sue me.
They were both SO DAMN GOOD, featuring strong women I will never forget.
3. WALK THE DARKNESS DOWN by John Boden.
Weird and total nightmare fuel by one of my favorite authors. I will never ever forget Jubal and his sisters. Neither will you.
4. A LUSH AND SEETHING HELL by John Hornor Jacobs.
I'm cheating again because this volume also contains two novellas. I loved it so much, but I especially enjoyed the second tale MY HEART STRUCK SORROW. I'm a fan of Blues music and I don't know if any other story could be this perfect for me.
5. JIMMY THE FREAK by Charles Colyott and Mark Steensland.
This is a late entry to the list as I just read it last week. This little known but excellent novella deserves a bigger audience. It's poignant and brutal all at once.
6. THE HALF-FREAKS by Nicole Cushing.
A weird little tale-and Nicole is one of the BEST when it comes to those!
7. IN THE SCRAPE by James Newman and Mark Steensland.
A coming of age dark fiction tale. I was already a fan of James Newman and this novella made me a fan of Mr. Steensland as well.
8. THE RESURRECTIONISTS by Michael Patrick Hicks.
A nasty little historical fiction, Cthulhu mash-up. Crazy, right?
9. WATER FOR DROWNING by Ray Cluley.
I won the audio for this novella and fell in love with it. The world needs more mermaid stories.
10. THOSE WHO GO FORTH INTO THE EMPTY PLACE OF GODS by Curtis Lawson and Doug Rinaldi. I can't link you to my review because I haven't written it yet! (I read the whole thing just yesterday!)This novella was imaginative, creative, weird and...I need a sequel, and maybe a prequel too. I just need MORE. Now, please!
Thank you for reading this far and I hope you'll stay tuned for my top ten best novels of 2019 list!
Here is a listing of the short story collections and anthologies that I enjoyed most during 2019. (I wasn't able to read as many as I would have liked, but it was a busy year for family obligations. Luckily, most of the collections I did read were outstanding!)
Click the titles if you're interested in reading my review!
1. THE SEA WAS A FAIR MASTER by Calvin Demmer.
This was my introduction to this author, and I'm very much looking forward to checking out more of his work in the future.
2. THE NIGHT DOCTOR AND OTHER TALES by Steve Rasnic Tem.
I find myself still thinking about these stories all the time. They make me feel as unsettled now and they did when I first read them. Tem is a national treasure and I wish more readers were familiar with his work.
3. IN DARKNESS, DELIGHT: CREATURES OF THE NIGHT edited by Evans Light and Andrew Lennon
This was a real treat, just like the first in the series. Featuring creatures of all kinds, this volume was delightful!
4. ON DARK WINGS by Stephen Gregory.
Like Steve Rasnic Tem, I think Stephen Gregory is criminally underrated. With unique, superb descriptive skills, and with a penchant for writing about birds, Gregory will always remain a favorite of mine, even if he never writes another word.
5. GROWING THINGS by Paul Tremblay
An excellent collection from one of the best writers in dark fiction today.
Horror Aficionados hosted a group read of this book, and all of the authors participated. It made for a unique and exciting experience. It helped that all of the authors brought their A game, and that Kenneth Cain had a great feel as far as the flow of the stories was concerned.
7. IN DARKNESS, DELIGHT: MASTERS OF THE NIGHT edited by Andrew Lennon and Evans Light.
The first volume of this series was quite good and totally had my anticipation going when the second volume was released. With an array of authors that would top any dark fiction list, this book did not disappoint.
8. WICKED WEIRD edited by Amber Fallon, Scott Goudsward and David Price.
An excellent anthology from New England Horror Writers. I own a few other anthologies from this same group and I know I will be sorry I haven't read them yet. (It's my plan for 2020 to read all of the WICKED series books I own.)
9. A DEEP HORROR THAT WAS VERY NEARLY AWE by J.R. Hamantaschen
This is an author from whom I never know what to expect. A wide variety of tales within, this one tickled my fancy back in January, and set the standard for the rest of the year.
10. URNTOLD TALES OF HORROR AND DREAD by J.B. Lovet
An excellent and impressive debut collection from a mysterious author.
I hope you stay tuned for more BEST OF 2019 posts!
#FridayReads Today, I'm reading THOSE WHO GO FORTH INTO THE EMPTY PLACE OF GODS by @c_lawson & Doug Rinaldi. I'm also starting THE IMMEASURABLE CORPSE OF NATURE by @CSlatsky. I'm listening to ELEANOR OLIPHANT IS COMPLETELY FINE by Gail Honeyman. What are you reading? pic.twitter.com/288ODxCj2o— Char's Horror Corner
Seldom at a loss for words, here I sit, trying to figure out what to say about this collection.
In July, I was contacted by the author asking if I was interested in reading this book. Even though I was currently closed to new requests, I accepted with the provision that I wouldn't be able to read it until at least the end of the year. Well, here we are, December 26th, I've read it and I LOVED it and I'm sorry I had to wait so long before I could fit in to my schedule.
There were several stories here that were pure perfection, such as:
THE TOOTH FAIRY AND ITS FORMS ACROSS THE WORLD: Is there anything scarier than the dentist? How 'bout the Tooth Fairy?
I DON'T LIKE DOLLS: Nor do I but this story ROCKED!
MR. SPINS GAMES AND THINGS: OMG, still at a loss for words over this one!
ALONE IN THE SNOW: Have you ever been outside in the snow for a lengthy bit of time? The silence is scary. But the voices and the giggling are even worse.
RAMSGATE HOUSE: Picture an Air B&B rental with the only restriction being that you don't enter the basement. Would you then enter the basement?
THERE'S PIRATE TREASURE IN THE LAKE: A poignant tale that almost brought a tear to my eye.
There are bonus tales at the end of my paperback copy, ones that are not listed on the table of contents. I liked those too, most especially HOME AT LAST.
So, I have this book here-I absolutely adored it. (I just emailed the author about how much I adore it.) I find it strange that I cannot find this author on Twitter or on Goodreads or on the Facebooks. I don't even know this author's gender, age or anything else for that matter.
What I do know is that this book of tales is phenomenal! It's been a long, long time since a self-published work has stirred me up this much. The prose is polished, the book is excellently edited, (better than some from the big 6, to be honest), and I feel lost not being able to get in touch with this author RIGHT NOW to tell them how honored I am to have been chosen to read URNTOLD TALES.
My highest recommendation!
Get your copy here: URNTOLD TALES OF HORROR AND DREAD
*I received a paperback copy of this book in exchange for my honest feedback. This is it!*
RESISTING MADNESS is my first experience with Wesley Southard and it was a good one!
I've always been a big fan of story collections and anthologies. When I was a teenager, I would search out these types of books from my library, note down the authors I especially enjoyed, and then I would go on to search out novels by them. I will be doing the same with Mr. Southard.
The stories that floated my boat the most were:
WITH MANY THANKS TO NEWARK This was the first tale and a great way to start off. You've heard of SNAKES ON A PLANE right? Yeah, well these weren't snakes. :)
MINOR LEAGUER Even though I feel like I'm no longer a fan of the more extreme horror available these days, this one tickled me just fine.
GOD BLESS YOU A fast, direct, punch to the face. Loved it!
HOME INVASION (With Nikki McKenzie). A fun story on two fronts and I dug it. I dug it a LOT.
LIP SERVICE I don't even know what to say about this. This was more of a weird fiction tale than flat out horror. I sometimes think when authors try too hard to explain something, it ruins the story. The author did not do that here and I found the story more intriguing as a result.
BUST TO DUST was just nasty. Funny and disgusting all at once.
The final tale was a novella: RESISTING MADNESS. I started reading it last night and had one hell of a time putting it down. This story dug deep into what parenting is really about. It also featured some extraordinarily gory action which somehow reminded me of Bird Box and a Twilight Zone episode all tangled up together in one superb and bloody package. This was my favorite story in the collection.
I'm happy to report that my introduction to Wesley Southard's work went very well. With a large variety of tales featuring everything from flash fiction to a novella length work, I feel like this was a great way to start with a new to me author and I look forward to reading more of his work in the future.
Get your copy here: RESISTING MADNESS
*Thanks to Wesley Southard for the paperback ARC of this book in exchange for my honest feedback. This is it!
DOGS OF WAR was another hit with me!
Ray Porter gives Joe Ledger heart. When Joe is worried about his family or about completing a mission, I worry right there along with him. Porter brings life to Maberry's work and they both have made Joe Ledger part of MY family. I would never have thought that this series would work so well. Action and military type stuff is not my bag. Maberry and Porter have MADE it my bag and I'm happy and grateful for that. They have provided a wonderful distraction from real life these last few months. It was just what I needed.
*I rejoined Audible so that I wouldn't have to wait on the library's list anymore.*
My heart swelled until it exploded. ALL. THE. STARS.
Jimmy fell on his head as a child and his life was never the same after that. He needs someone to keep an eye on him. At times, he's so child-like, he brings that sense of wonder to everyone around him. At other times, he just wants his pizza, (every day), and he can be difficult if he doesn't get what he wants. Jimmy is a hot commodity, though. That fall on his head is credited, (by Jimmy's friend, Mike), for a special ability Jimmy possesses. What is that ability, you ask? You'll have to read this to find out!
JIMMY THE FREAK is my favorite type of dark fiction story. It has complicated, in-depth characters. As a novella, it has to make every word count, so it has brevity. Lastly, (and perhaps most importantly, for me) it has poignancy. I fell in love with Jimmy and I bet you will too.
My highest recommendation!
Get your copy here: JIMMY THE FREAK
*Thank you to Mark Steensland for the e-copy of this book, in exchange for my honest feedback. This is it!*