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review 2017-04-18 16:06
Garden of Fiends Anthology
Garden of Fiends: Tales of Addiction Horror - Bentley Little;P. Gardner Goldsmith;Lorne Dixon;Michael A. Arnzen;Pat MacEwen;Ray Garton;Ian Withrow;John F.D. Taff;Jeff Strand;Kevin Lucia;Benjamin Kane Ethridge;Shane McKenzie;Steve Vernon;Charles Colyott;Taylor Grant;Dev Jarrett;Eric J. Guignard;J. S.

This is a truly excellent collection of short stories all about the struggle of addiction. All have a horror twist and there isn’t a dud in the bunch. If I didn’t have to work, feed and clean up after people all the live-long day, I would’ve finished it in one sitting because it’s that good. I’m not going to rate them. Just know that they’re all around the 4 1/2 – 5 star range which totally averages out to a 5, right?

 

A Wicked Thirst by Kealan Patrick Burke

 

Things get off to a dark start (and stay there, really) with this story about a man caught in the throes of alcohol addiction. His life is a wreck, he is haunted by his mistakes, by his never-ending thirst and perhaps by something supernatural. It’s unflinching and you really do feel for this mess of a man as he is helpless to stop the all-consuming thirst . . .

 

The One in the Middle by Jessica McHugh

 

In a not too distant future, a man has lost the love of his life due to his addiction. This only feeds the vicious cycle as he longs for drugs to take away his emotional pain. He lives in a desperate world where the wealthy pay big bucks for something only the drug addicted can offer them. But he’s not desperate enough to sink to that, or is he? This is apparently an excerpt from a longer work called Green Kangaroos, which I now need because I am the nosey sort, but the story feels complete enough here. This one is dirty and brutal and harrowing.

 

Garden of Fiends by Mark Mathews

 

Oh how I loved this one. It’s haunting and terrifying and all around awesome. Tara is a recovering addict and every day is a struggle to remain sober. She has a family who loves her and will do anything to keep her alive and I do mean anything. This is a story about an addict, a garden that grows terrible fruit and the damage it all does to one once close-knit, loving family. It’s sad and horrible and beautifully written.

 

First, Bit Just a Finger by Johann Thorsson

 

This is a little snippet of a story that started with a party trick that turns one woman on to a new obsession that’ll put some images in your head you may not easily forget. Eww this was disturbing! So fantastically disturbing and I wanted more!

 

Last Call by John FD. Taff

 

Ted is a slave to his addiction. When he shows up loaded at his latest AA meeting his sponsor is forced to take drastic measures and hands him a business card, telling him to go to the address on the card and ask for “the last bottle he’ll ever need”. He gets it and gets his life together but the past will come back to haunt in a most terribly heartbreaking way.

 

Torment of the Fallen by Glen Krisch

 

Maggie is 15, a runaway, sees demons and sets out on a course of disaster to locate her father. This was like watching an extremely dark episode of Supernatural with a surprise ending and I adored it.

 

Everywhere You’ve Bled and Everywhere You Will Be by Max Booth III 

 

This one starts out in a most startling manner. Jeremy arises after a saucy night to discover that blood is oozing out of a place it shouldn't be oozing out of. He tries to shrug it off as a result of overuse but it’s difficult to shrug off something like that, especially when it doesn’t stop oozing! Uh oh. This story is darkly comical and is laced with my favorite kind of twisted humor. It’s probably my favorite because of that. Sex, drugs, cravings, spiders and madness fueled by drugs and nightmare images? What’s not to like? It’s also gory and bloody and so very messy. I loved it all.

 

Returns by Jack Ketchum 

 

Awww, this was a short and beautifully told ghost story about a depressed alcoholic, a man and a cat ending with a Ketchum edge. It’s a little scary to me that I just so happened to take this particular progress photo when sitting down to read this collection!

 

 

This book was a very cohesive collection and I am so glad I changed my stance on short story collections (due to burn out) and gave this one a try! I received an ARC from the publisher.

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review 2017-04-07 19:39
The Devil Crept In by Ania Ahlborn
The Devil Crept In - Ania Ahlborn

This story starts out a little slow but it’s of the slow burn variety that builds into something terrible and terrifying so I didn’t mind too much.

 

Stevie's best and only friend, Jude, wandered out into the woods near their home one day and never came home. No one besides Jude's mother and Stevie seem terribly upset about it. Jude was an unlikable sort, sure, but the lack of interest in finding him is a little bothersome so Stevie decides to investigate on his own. He and Jude had spent endless hours in the forest doing what boys do in the woods and came upon a creepy old house. Stevie is certain that house has something to do with Jude’s disappearance.

 

This story is a mishmash of many horror-ish things. It’s a coming of age tale mixed up with remnants of King’s Pet Sematary and a splattering of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre but it’s totally its own story. What is eventually revealed is horrifying, disturbing and very gruesome and could give you nightmares if you think about the images too much.

 

I enjoyed the slow unraveling of this story and watching how the origin of a nightmare begins. Stevie was an interesting kid, struggling with a disorder that makes him a target and growing up with an assholish step-dad. He’s determined to find his friend and later he’s unafraid to stir up a little trouble to get at the truth. There’s a side story that I won’t reveal that absolutely captured me where one very unlucky woman is faced with a moral dilemma like none other I’ve ever read and I felt for her. She only wanted love but she got something else entirely!

 

A word of warning, if you need one, there are deaths in here and many of them happen to innocent little beasts but it’s all part of this story and felt like an awful, natural progression of one of the characters.

 

If you like your horror gory and creepy then this one’s for you.

 

I received an ARC of this book from Netgalley. Thanks, Netgalley!

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text 2017-03-07 15:25
DNF Review: Snow by Ronald Malfi
Snow - Ronald Malfi

Snow is about a guy and a gal who first meet at an airport. They end up stranded when their flights are cancelled due to a snowstorm. They, very unwisely if you ask me, decide to rent a car and drive to their destinations instead. During a blizzard.

 

 

Bad and bloody things happen because more than snow has come rolling in with the blizzard. It has a lot of gore, action and even a religious wingnut BUT . . .

 

I am sad to say that this one was a DNF. The writing was good, there was attention to atmosphere and to character but I just didn’t love it and found myself daydreaming. The characters and their plight did not move me. After the fifth attempt at getting it done, I put it aside for the final time at the 50% mark.

 

It could be my mood (probably), or the fact that I sort of recently read a similar book and didn’t love that one either (Chills by Mary SanGiovanni) but whatever the reason I tired of the struggle and pulled the plug. It has lots of fantastic reviews by many of my trusted friends but alas it wasn’t meant for me.

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review 2017-02-10 19:27
Five Stories High: One House, Five Hauntings, Five Chilling Stories
Five Stories High: One House, Five Hauntings, Five Chilling Stories - Tade Thompson,Sarah Lotz,Nina Allan,Robert Shearman,K.J. Parker,Jonathan Oliver

I received this ARC from Netgalley. Thanks, Netgalley!

 

One house, five hauntings, five chilling stories.

 

Oh the Blurbs. Why do they lie? I promised myself this would be the year of the DNF and I am failing quite spectacularly at that promise. The problem is story collections. I may never read another one again. Story collections are the bane of my reading life this month. I can’t DNF them because I fear that if I do so, I’ll miss out something mind-blowing. This one has two good stories that are chilling and set in a haunted house. The other three? I haven’t a clue how they found their way into this collection.

 

 

 

Maggots by Nina Allan Maggots started out interesting enough but it soon went off the rails for me. A young college student suspects something is off with his beloved aunt after she goes missing for a brief moment while on vacation. He begins to obsess over thoughts that her body has been inhabited by another. . . Sounds good right? And it was at first but then it got terribly dull. It devolved into his search for the truth. That search leads him to Irongrove Lodge, which isn't haunted in the typical way, ugh, and then he discovers some cosmic weirdness. This kind of story just wasn’t what I was expecting from the blurbage. I didn’t find it chilling or haunting. 3 Stars

 

Priest’s Hole by K.J. Parker After my disappointment with story #1, I will admit to skimming Priest’s Hole almost immediately once I realized it too was not about a haunted house but about a shape-shifter instead. If I wanted to read the daily goings-on and meanderings of a day in the life of a shape-shifter I would’ve picked up another book. A sexier book, if truth be told. What on earth is going on here?! I cannot rate this one because I only read enough of it to realize it wasn’t the story I was looking for and I moved on to the next. DNF It was here that I nearly DNF’d the entire book but figured I’d give it one more shot and I’m glad I did. Yep, that was not a typo. I’m glad I did!

 

Gnaw by Tade Thompson The perfect little family moves into Irongrove Lodge and the husband begins to renovate. Uh oh! You know that is never a good idea! His wife has reservations about the whole thing but the husband does what he wants. This story is a slow, slow burn but boy does it ever start to pay off in the final act. The son starts acting strangely and then the wife starts seeing extremely unsettling visions. I absolutely adored this story. The atmosphere, the creeping dread, the horrific images it has burned into my brain? It’s all awesome and it is the reason I am so glad I did not DNF this book! This was the kind of story I was hoping for when I requested this ARC from Netgalley. It’s a shame they weren’t all written in this vein. 4.5 Stars

 

The Best Story I can Manage Under the Circumstances Robert Shearman This is story would fit right in if this were a bizarro collection but this was not marketed as a bizarro collection. So, what we have here is a baby born with only a head. It has no legs, no arms, no torso, no nothing besides the head but it’s alive. Alright. But don’t you worry, soon after another baby is born with just a torso and a little peepee and the two baby parts find each other, hook up and match perfectly. Now what are the odds? Then things switch over to a boy and a strange little door that appears only on his birthday. Was it the same baby boy now fully whole? Don’t ask me because I was skimming at this point. I honestly couldn’t comprehend what was going on here and found it all just a strange jumble of words. Eventually I threw in the towel and DNF’d it. This was not at all what I wanted when I picked up this book.

 

 

Skin Deep Sarah Lotz The collection ends on a good note, at least. Skin Deep is about an older woman who purchases Irongrove Lodge for her boy toy. It's clear a terrible thing happened when the story begins and it is slowly revealed how she earned the nickname “The Butcher”. This was told from many POV’s which kept things lively and kept me guessing. It was dark with slowly creeping dread and as a bonus I got to watch a slow descent into madness. Great stuff and another 4.5 star story that’s worth a read.

 

It’s a shame 3 out of these 5 stories felt like they belonged in another collection.

 

Challenges:

Audiobook Challenge: Book #4 Not an audio

HA Mount TBR Challenge: Book #7

HA Pages Read Challenge 2017

Horror Reading Challenge Book #4

 

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review 2017-02-06 17:00
Nightmares edited by Ellen Datlow
Nightmares: A New Decade of Modern Horror - Richard Kadrey,Caitlín Kiernan,Garth Nix,Gene Wolfe,Margo Lanagan,Laird Barron,Ellen Datlow

 I received the ARC from Netgalley. Thanks, Netgalley!

 

I guess this averages out to 3.5? I'm too tired to do the math so a 3 it is.

 

Holy crap this book took half my life to read. It says it was only 432 pages long but I Do NOT Believe It. There are sooo many stories. Too many stories. No one needs to read this many stories about nightmarish scenarios all in a row. I’ve always felt these Datlow collections were overstuffed and steered clear of them for years but this one got me with its tantalizing cover. The next time I shelve one of these tomes someone please knock some sense into me and point me to this review.

 

I was going to review each story in exquisite detail and even took notes but there’s no need to take up half of your life with all of that and besides my fingers would likely fall off and I kind of need them. I’ll just stick to better describing the loves and the hates and throw a few words at the meh in the middle.

 

 

Ok, here we go.

 

Shallaballah by Mark Samuels, 1.5 Stars: Why the editor decided to start this collection off with what I consider one of the worst stories in the collection is beyond me. Perhaps it’s just me and my atrocious taste but if I had my way this story wouldn’t be here. Guess that’s why I’m not an editor.

 

An asshole actor destroys his face in a car accident, shady Doctor steps in to repair the damage at a super creepy clinic and bad things happen.I didn't care about any of it because the MC was a dick. It was also vague and confusing near the end and I was left screaming, “Why and WTF did I just read?” Clearly you can skip this one if you want to or read it and tell me what a dummy I am.

 

Sob In the Silence by Gene Wolfe, 3 Stars: A dastardly man gets what’s coming to him. Brief but disturbing.

 

Our Turn Too Will One Day Come by Brian Hodge, 3.5 Stars: I love me some dark family secrets and this has a grisly one. Word of advice. When someone calls you at 2am and tells you to bring the shovel, hang up and go back to sleep.

 

Dead Sea fruit by Kaaron Warren, 4 Stars: A story about a dentist, anorexia and a creepy ass monster called The Ashmouth Man. One smootch from him and you will never want to eat again. Who wouldn’t want a kiss from that?! Just kidding. I enjoyed this. It was strange and unique and the ending was quite perfect.

 

Closet Dreams by Lisa Tuttle, 5 Stars: Well, this was disturbing and I am not easily disturbed. It bothered me after I finished it. It’s scary, nightmarish, heartbreaking and it’ll haunt you.

 

Spectral Evidence by Gemma Files, DNF: I just could not go on with this one because of the format and all of the footnotes. I felt like I was reading for a school assignment and would be tested. I wanted nightmares not brain hurt when I picked up this collection.

 

Hushabye by Simon Bestwick, 3 Stars: This wasn’t what I’d consider horror and it leaves you hanging in the wind at the end. I hate when that happens.

 

Very Low-Flying Aircraft by Nicholas Royle, 2 Stars: The foreshadowing here was about as gentle as a baseball bat to the skull. It’s a story about a cocky dumbass of a pilot who puts his loins ahead of human life. Meh.

 

The Goosle by Margo Lanagan, 5 Stars: This is one of my favorites. It’s a fairy tale retelling that balances sarcastic humor with painfully dark undertones.

 

The Clay Party by Steve Duffy, 4.5 Stars: This is a gripping tale about a group of misguided settlers attempting to take a short cut instead of sticking to the trail. Nothing good comes of it, as you can imagine. This is another that ends perfectly.

 

Strappado by Laird Barron, 4.5 Stars: Two party-goers are invited to a super secretive art show and very bad things happen. This story was weird and twisty and will possibly give you nightmares.

 

Lonegan’s Luck by Stephen Graham Jones, 3 Stars: Back in the Wild West a super sleazy snake oil salesmen sets out to do what he does but things go awry. As I read through my notes I have no recollection of the story so 3 stars it is.

 

Mr. Pigsny by Reggie Oliver, 4 Stars: This story about death, art and a weird little man was creepy as hell.

 

At Night, When the Demons Come by Ray Cluley, 4.5 Stars: An apocalypse has happened and now demons hunt the remaining humans but it’s the women who have the most to fear. This was most definitely nightmare inducing and one of the better tales in the collection.

 

Was She Wicked? Was She Good? By Mary Rickert, 4 Stars: What's a parent to do when they discover their little cherub has a cruel streak and enjoys harming small creatures? This is the dilemma posed to the couple in this chilling story. The author paints some terrible images and even though I don’t think I entirely followed all of it, I did enjoy it. It needed to be longer, if you ask me.

 

The Shallows by John Langan, 2 Stars: I honestly don’t know WTF this one was all about. It was the sad story of a dying woman, a dying world and a lonely dog and a man recounting three different stories. My mind, oh how it hurts. There were whispers of cosmic things but that wasn’t enough to save this for me.

 

Little Pig by Anna Taborska, 4.5 Stars: Holy dogs and demon cats, was this one ever disturbing. Imagine you’re a woman, all alone with a small son and an infant to worry after and you are on the run. Now imagine there are starving wolves nipping at your heels. Now imagine the worst. This is one I won’t ever forget.

 

Omphalos by Livia Llewellyn, 1 Star:I despised this story about a family trip to hell. I don’t despise much, my tolerance for the awful is pretty damn high, but this one? This one was HORRIBLE with fifty exclamation marks. Don’t get me wrong, the writing was fine. I’m not talking about the writing. I’m talking about the content. Descriptive incest between a daddy and his daughter happens and I do not care if that is a spoiler. The people need to know. It was over the top and should’ve come with some kind of flashing trigger alert warning. But not only that (as if that wasn’t bad enough) it ended in one of those weirdly confusing, vague ways that left me squinting my eyes and wishing I hadn’t read it at all.

 

I don't know about you but I need a break right now.

 

 

Ahhh, that's better.

 

How We Escaped Our Certain Fate by Dan Chaon, 3 Stars: This is zombie tale that features a world where zombies are more of a pest than a threat. It’s laden with loss but aren't they all? There wasn’t much of anything new here but it was decently told.

 

That Tiny Flutter of the Heart I Used to Call Love Robert Shearman, 3 Stars: A messed up story of skewed childhoods, weirdly twisted love and strange customs that include sacrificing dolls. Love requires sacrifice, after all . . .

 

Interstate Love Song (Murder Ballad No. 8) by Caitlín R. Kiernan, 4 Stars: We meet two serial killing twins, who just so happen to also be lovers (twin-cest!) just as their road trip of death and destruction comes to a bloody end. I have to admit their romance was a little sexy but they were grown-ups so don’t be judging me.

 

Shay Corsham Worsted, 3.5 Stars: This was a weird one about a deadly lizard man masquerading as an old man. It left me with a crapload of questions but I kind of liked it.

 

The Atlas of Hell Nathan Ballingrud, 4 Stars: This was an interesting story about a rare book seller, a mob man and their journey to find The Atlas of Hell! The Atlas of Hell will lead you to objects brought back from Hell itsownself, objects fools are willing to pay big money to own. Who wouldn’t want to own that?!

 

Ambitious Boys Like You by Richard Kadrey, 4.5 Stars: Two thieves hit up the wrong house. Instead of a weak old man, they find dolls and booby traps and a whole lot of pain. This story was inventive, dark and creepy as hell and a great way to finally end this collection.

 

Hopefully I got them all but I can’t guarantee it and I am all typed out so this is all there is. There are some nightmarish stories here mixed in with a bunch of meh and I would recommend it with the caveat that you should not attempt to read it straight through. Read something else in-between these stories, split it up, you’ll thank me later. There is too much darkness to be taken in alone here and you may lose your will to read and to keep your eyes open.

 

 

Challenge Update

 

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