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text 2017-12-27 12:30
Char's Horror Corner: Top Ten Novellas of 2017
Spungunion - John Boden
Of Foster Homes and Flies - Chad Lutzke
Mapping the Interior - Stephen Graham Jones
Mystery Road - Kevin Lucia
Wallflower - Chad Lutzke
Just Add Water - Hunter Shea
Hoodoo Harry (Bibliomysteries) - Joe R. Lansdale
Soles - Kay Brandt
Money Back Guarantee - Hunter Shea
Sweet Aswang - Anthony Hains

I ADORE dark fiction novellas. I think that novella length is the perfect form in which to tell a lean and powerful horror story. Every word has to count, anything that isn't important is left out. Because I love them so much, I tend to read a lot of novellas. This year, I decided to give them their own category and so without further ado, here are my top ten of the year. (Please click the book covers below, if you'd like to see my original review.)


1Spungunion - John Boden  by John Boden. Spungunion is poignant, powerful and lyrically written at times. In my humble opinion, John Boden, (along with Chad Lutzke, see below), are the REAL DEAL. I will, with pleasure,  continue to read anything they write.





2Of Foster Homes and Flies - Chad Lutzke  by Chad Lutzke. Two parents gone and an upcoming spelling bee. It doesn't sound like much, but in the hands of Chad Lutzke it IS much. Almost too much at times. This novella touched me and I related to this poor kid in just about every way. As I said above, I believe Chad is an author to watch.


3Mapping the Interior - Stephen Graham Jones   by Stephen Graham Jones. This man is so prolific and thus far, I've only managed to read a few things by him. Mapping the Interior was another poignant story on this list, involving lost parents and life as a Native American in today's harsh world. Much like the two stories above, I'm finding it very difficult to describe why this tale affected me so much, but it did. Perhaps it will affect you in the same way?



4. Mystery Road - Kevin Lucia  by Kevin Lucia. This is yet another poignant tale about a man caring for his dying father, an area where I have some personal experience. Perhaps, that's why this novella hit me so hard? Or maybe it's just that it was brilliantly and beautifully written. 


5. Wallflower - Chad Lutzke  by Chad Lutzke. This is a powerful novella about addiction. Never, ever underestimate the power of drugs or alcohol. People often do just that and end up in dire straits. This was so well written that as I was reading I thought for sure that Chad had personal experience with drug addiction. It turns out he doesn't, but that should give you an idea of how real-feeling this novella was. 


6. Just Add Water - Hunter Shea  by Hunter Shea. Amazing sea monkeys! YAY! No poignancy here, (You're probably saying YAY too!), just good clean horror FUN. Simple as that!


7. Hoodoo Harry (Bibliomysteries) - Joe R. Lansdaleby the Champion Mojo Storyteller himself: Mr. Joe Lansdale. He's probably the biggest, most well known name on this list. Author of the popular Hap & Leonard series, he writes in all genres and he's always funny as hell. This was a mystery involving Hap & Leonard, and it made me chuckle. Plus, it's a story about a bookmobile-how could I not love that?


8. Soles - Kay Brandt  by Kay Brandt. As far as I know this is the only novella written by this author. It had a very cool premise and I think she pulled it off. Ms. Brandt has an interesting career going for herself, but I think if she chose to pursue dark fiction, she might do very well. 


9. Money Back Guarantee - Hunter Shea  by Hunter Shea. This is Mr. Shea's second entry on this list. Both of these novellas were part of a series titled "Mail Order Massacres" and were based upon things you could order through the mail via the ads in the backs of comics. Though JUST ADD WATER was my favorite of the three, MONEY BACK GUARANTEE placed a close second. Never mess with a mom who spent some of her hard earned money on a product that nearly killed her kid. Pure F U N!!


10. Sweet Aswang - Anthony Hains  by Anthony Hains. I admit to not knowing what an Aswang was when I started this tale. Now that I do know, I wonder why Aswangs are not the subject of more horror stories-because have no doubt: Aswangs are freaking SCARY! I had quite a few novellas ranked 4 stars this year, but I chose to include this one because of the sheer originality and fun of it.  


If you've stayed with me this far, I thank and appreciate you! I hope that you'll join me in 2018 as I seek out and hopefully discover more great dark fiction novellas! 

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review 2017-10-31 17:18
We Are Always Watching - Hunter Shea

After having read so much excellent horror in the last few days, this book just did not measure up. Perhaps I would have liked it more had I not binged on classics like Burnt Offerings and The Girl Next Door. Who knows. What I do know is I was intrigued for the first thirty percent or so of this book, but feel it quickly devolved into silliness. I found myself skimming, and so happy when I was finished.


I guess I just couldn’t buy into this one’s premise. A family hard on their luck must move in with Grandpa Abraham, a grumpy old man who lives in a farmhouse in the middle of nowhere, PA. The family, used to the city life in NYC, just adjust. From the start strange written warnings and notes are left everywhere: “We are watching you.” “We are the guardians.” Etc. Naturally, mother and son are upset but Dad (who grew up in this house and has dealt with this his whole life) just writes it off. And . . . they just kinda go along with it, let it keep happening? They don’t call the police, or anything. It just did not feel believable to me.


And I saw the ending coming from a mile away. It’s frustrating being able to predict a book’s ending.


I just don’t really have much to say about this one. The synopsis made it sound creepier than it is. And I don’t know if this really classified as a ‘ghost story’ but I’m using it for ghosts in Halloween Bingo because that sort of plot was promised to me. I am very disappointed. I’m still shaken by Burnt Offerings (a far, far, far superior scary house story!) and this just didn’t measure up. At all. And, sadly, I don’t think it’s good on its own merits either.



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text 2017-10-30 18:35
Reading progress update: I've read 1%.
We Are Always Watching - Hunter Shea

Thought I owned Hell House but I don’t. I’ll read this for ‘ghost’ instead.


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review 2017-09-27 19:00
Money Back Guarantee by Hunter Shea
Money Back Guarantee - Hunter Shea

From what I understand, this is the last of the Mail Order Massacres novella series. That's a damn shame! The first dealt with sea monkeys, the second with X-Ray glasses, and this one- a nuclear submarine ordered from the back of a comic book. You shouldn't worry though because if you're not happy with your submarine, there's a money back guarantee!


So what happens when Rosemary orders said nuclear sub and her son tries to take it into his best friend's pool? As you can imagine, it doesn't go very well because the sub is actually made out of cardboard. Rosemary tries to get her money back and that's when everything goes south. Is her son okay? Will she be refunded her $5.00? You'll have to read this ripping novella to find out!


Money Back Guarantee was a fast paced story that can easily be knocked off in one sitting. Was it fun? Hell, yeah! Was it engaging? Oh yes! Was it totally believable? Probably not, but if you're looking at these kinds of books, believability is probably not your first priority. If what you ARE looking for is fun, then this is the novella for you!


I'm going with highly recommended on this one, because it's just so entertaining!


You can pre-order your copy here: Money Back Guarantee


*Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the e-ARC in exchange for my honest feedback. This is it.*

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review 2017-09-25 16:38
I Love Kids in Horror Novels!
We Are Always Watching - Hunter Shea

Over the past year or so I've become a huge fan of Hunter Shea so when my friend and I were looking for a buddy read, this became the obvious choice. "We Are Always Watching" grabbed me right from the start and didn't let go until the end - and that ending! 14-year-old West and his parents have had to move to Pennsylvania to live with his Grandpa Abraham on a rundown, decrepit farm. West's father suffers from severe vertigo which makes him quite handicapped following a car accident and the family has fallen on hard times. West's father hates returning to his childhood home and his mother is busy working so the family can eventually move out.

Immediately from the start, West senses something is wrong. His Grandfather has hinted that the house is haunted and West and the family starts finding messages left on the inside and the outside of the home. Grandpa finally discloses that the house is being watched by The Guardians, who do not like change and disruption. Things start happening around the home such as messages left on mirrors and finding Grandpa passed out and bound outside, but the more people whom the family tells what is happening, the more that happens.

I loved this entire book! Grandpa is an old crotchety drunk and not an very likable character, but ultimately he is trying to keep his family safe, although he is also hiding a lot of secrets. West's parents are just struggling to get by and not lose hold of their family in the process. However, West if by far the best character. First of all, he loves everything horror, in fact, he is initially intrigued that the house might be haunted. West always has his nose stuck in a horror book and he has posters from famous movies plastered all over his bedroom walls. "We Are Always Watching" took a real turn about halfway through the novel and I have to admit, it wasn't what I expected. Without giving too much away, it's best to go into this book with limited knowledge so the reader feels the shock and terror right along with the family.

This was a fun book to buddy read and I feel like I read enough of Shea's work. He's definitely an auto-buy author for me and I can't wait to see what he comes up with next!


I will be using this novel for the HORROR square on my Halloween Bingo Card.

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