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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 2017-12-26 20:42
We can learn from books...even forgotten ones!
The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafón

Occasionally it can fun to take a punt on an ‘unknown’ book, from a public library, charity shop or friend’s shelf, but when such a lottery yields an unexpected pearl it can be all the more rewarding. ‘The Shadow of the Wind’ was one such absorbing read, by an author (Carlos Ruiz Zafόn) unfamiliar to me, but this story is made all the more intriguing by its draw on several genres. Set in post-civil war Barcelona, there are elements of historical drama, echoes of gothic mystery and romance, thriller and even comedic moments. It’s a heady cocktail, yet the layering of the narrative is so expertly written that the reader is skilfully drawn into the complex lives of the interconnected characters. Central among them is Daniel, who, aged ten, is introduced to the strange ‘Cemetery of Forgotten Books’, where he is fated to choose ‘The Shadow of the Wind’ written by Julian Carax.


“…few things leave a deeper mark on a reader than the first book that finds its way into his heart…”and so it proves for Daniel, as his ownership of the rare book triggers his curiosity about the mysterious author and burgeons into an ardent adult need to solve the puzzle that is Carax.


Along the way, Daniel’s relationships with his father, friends, neighbours and those close to Carax offer vivid insight into the dark days of Franco’s Spain. None more so than a vagrant, the ebullient Fermin Romero de Torres, who befriends Daniel and though exposing him to the unwanted attention of his former police torturer (Inspector Fumero), also protects Daniel and infuses him with a romantic verve for life. By contrast, a rather sinister character disfigured by fire is also lurking, bent on relieving Daniel of his book. Peril it seems is never far away.


Still, notwithstanding the well-defined Spanish social strata and the distribution of power across wealth, family and state lines, Daniel navigates a courageous path, which challenges the status quo and unashamedly asserts the capacity of love to breach such man-made boundaries.


The various strands of the plot are woven together seamlessly to create a highly satisfying whole and Zafόn’s attention to the detail of his creation ensures there are no ‘loose ends’, which I rather liked. All in all a very entertaining read, though as Mr Carax suggests, “Books are mirrors: you only see in them what you already have inside you.” I hope not.


As an aside, this novel was translated into English by Lucia Graves, daughter of Robert Graves, whose books about Emperor Claudius are among my earlier reviews. However, we should acknowledge that the quality of Ms Graves work has ensured that this novel seems to lose little in translation.

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review 2017-10-13 00:00
Through the Never: a Science Fiction and Fantasy Collection
Through the Never: a Science Fiction and... Through the Never: a Science Fiction and Fantasy Collection - J.A. Culican,Brandon Barr,Lucia Ashta,Sarah K.L. Wilson,Frost Kay,R.L. Blalock,Debbie Cassidy,Richard Amos,J.C. Kang,Craig Martelle,Sharolyn G. Brown,Tina Glasneck This time around I am giving a great big shout out to four of the authors from the Through the Never. R. L. Blalock, Craig Martelle, Debbie Cassidy & Richard Amos, Sharolyn G. Brown



The Fall of Endurance by R.L. Blalock

Laure is one of many traveling in space looking for new home to start a new life to keep humans from becoming extinct when they run into debris and have to land the ship quickly. Not to worry though they have the best pilot alive commanding the ship.

When they land on this new planet which they hope will be their new home they run into a lot more than they were hoping for.

Can they make this new planet their home? Will they be welcomed? Will they want to stay? Will they have a choice?

R. L. Blalock has knocked it out the ball park again. She has written another great story. While reading The Fall of Endurance you feel what the characters are feeling and see what they see. R. L. is one of those writers that can make you feel a connection to all the characters and the writer as well.

Sneak Peak:

“Critical system failure. All personnel, report to the bridge.”

“What happened?” I demanded, finally looking up at the woman who hovered over me. Her face was tight and her mouth set into a grim line.

“The ship needs to go planetside. Now.” All I could do was blink back at the woman as my mind tried to process what she had just told me.

Planetside? Had they finally found a planet?




The Outcast by Craig Martelle

As part of his punishment a prisoner is sent out in a spaceship to survey asteroids. All he has for companionship is the voice of the computer.

This one a very good short one which I enjoyed more than I thought I would in the beginning. The ending was out of this world. I never saw it coming.

Sneak Peak:

The pilot’s seat also served as the dining chair, the bed, the couch, or whatever Benny needed it for. He lived and worked within thirty-four square feet.

His entire world was contained in that small space.



Across the Starlight Blue by Debbie Cassidy and Richard Amos

A spaceship traveling through space looking for a new home is hit by debris and has to land quickly. After taking the shuttles to their new planet they are attacked by these alien bird like creatures upon entering the planet’s atmosphere. Will they survive the attack? Can they make this new planet their home? Or have they traveled all this way for nothing?

I really liked getting inside Becca’s head when she was first introduced the alien bird like creatures. This was a wonderful little short which I really enjoyed reading.

Sneak Peak:

Sixty years he’d been monitoring this ship while they slept, which was another reason making him too human was a bad idea. A human would probably have gone insane alone on a spaceship for sixty years.



Rodan’s Awakening by Sharolyn G. Brown

A young girl’s home is attacked and her whole family is lost. Rodan embarks on a journey to find the ones who attacked her home and make them pay.

Sneak Peak:

“We cannot go into the encampment. They are under attack. We need to go and call for help. The factions need to know we need help.”

“There is no time. We need to go and help our people fight. My parents are there. Your parents are there.”

“I know my parents are there,” Rodan snapped. “But you and I are not fighters. We need to call for assistance.” Rodan walked away from their encampment and toward the comm center.



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text 2017-10-02 22:30
September 2017 Round Up!
Paperbacks from Hell: The Twisted History of '70s and '80s Horror Fiction - Grady Hendrix
Carter & Lovecraft - Jonathan L. Howard
My Favorite Thing Is Monsters - Emil Ferris
Dark Screams: Volume Eight - Bentley Little,Kealan Patrick Burke,Richard Chizmar,Frank Darabont,Brian James Freeman
The Valancourt Book of Horror Stories: Volume Two - Nevil Shute,Mary Elizabeth Braddon,Michael P. Kube-McDowell
Go Down Together: The True, Untold Story of Bonnie and Clyde - Recorded Books LLC,Jeff Guinn,Jonathan Hogan
The Wilderness Within - John Claude Smith
Haven - Greymore Publishing,Matt Godfrey,Tom Deady
Audrey Rose - Frank De Felitta,Matt Godfrey
Mystery Road - Kevin Lucia

I read 16 books in September!

 

 

Graphic Novels:

 

My Favorite Thing is Monsters by Emil Farris

 

Total: 1

 

Audio Books:

Audrey Rose by Frank DeFelitta, narrated by Matt Godfrey

Haven by Tom Deady, narrated by Matt  Godfrey

The Turn of the Screw by Henry James, narrated by Emma Thompson 

Go Down Together: The True,Untold Story of Bonnie and Clyde narrated by Jeff Guinn

The Girls by Emma Cline, narrated by Cady McClain

The Grip of It by Jac Jemc, narrated by Amy McFadden and Michael David Axtell

 

Total: 6

 

ARCS:

Haunted Nights edited by Ellen Datlow and Lisa Morton

Dark Screams Volume Eight

The Valancourt Book of Horror Stories Volume Two, edited by James Jenkins and Ryan Cagle

The Wilderness Within by John Claude Smith

Money Back Guarantee by Hunter Shea

Mystery Road by Kevin Lucia

Paperbacks From Hell by Grady Hendrix

 

Total: 7

 

Random Books:

Carter and Lovecraft by Jonathan L. Howard

The Jersey Devil by Hunter Shea

 

Total: 2

 

 

 

READING CHALLENGES

 

Horror Aficionados Mount TBR Challenge: 

(Horror Aficionados Group on Goodreads)

Goal: Read 40 books I already own in 2017

 

January Count: 1

February Count: 2 

March and April Count: 0

May: 2 (Boo! and The Well)

June & July: 0

August: 1-The Talented Mr. Ripley

September: 0

Running Count: 6

 

 

 

Graphic Novel Challenge:

(Paced Reading Group on GR)

Goal: Read 25 Graphic novels in 2017 

 

January count: 5

February count: 2

March count: 5

April count: 5

May count: 3

June count: 4

July count: 4

August count: 5

September: 1

 

Running Count: 34! Challenge Met!

 

 

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review 2017-09-28 18:45
Mystery Road by Kevin Lucia
Mystery Road - Kevin Lucia

 

Mystery Road is a beautifully written, poignant story about a man caring for his dying father and the memories that suddenly return to him after decades of forgetfulness. 

 

Kevin Ellison recalls the day he was riding his bike to the local basketball court when he was 12. A road appeared. But he went to play basketball nearly every day, taking the same route, and has never noticed this road before. Where does it go and what does he find there? You'll have to read this novella and find out for yourself. 

 

I loved this story!  Even though I had an inkling of where it was going to go once events started to occur, I didn't guess all of it, and I still enjoyed the getting there. (In fact, the getting there was the best part.) Exploring the emotions of losing a parent, and of learning more about a parent's life before they had children-these are heavy subjects. But Mr. Lucia gets down in there, digging deep, and I'm not ashamed to say that I had a tear in my eye by the time I finished this sweet novella. 

 

Highly recommended!

 

*This book will be available as a limited edition through Cemetery Dance Publications' Novella Series. I wish I could tell you when and provide a link, but alas, I cannot. I will update this review when the information becomes available. I was provided a paperback ARC in exchange for my honest review. This is it.*

 

 

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