This week’s mini review round-up includes 1 novel, 2 short story collections, and a graphic novel—all horror-themed!
Some the reviews below are the shortened version of my review, but the “goodreads” link buttons will take you to the full review. Enjoy!
AUTHOR: Kealan Patrick Burke
RELEASED: October 25th, 2011
AGE RANGE: Adult
On a scorching hot summer day in Elkwood, Alabama, Claire Lambert staggers naked, wounded, and half-blind away from the scene of an atrocity. She is the sole survivor of a nightmare that claimed her friends, and even as she prays for rescue, the killers — a family of cannibalistic lunatics — are closing in.
Whew, that was dark at points and super suspenseful! This one gets ALL the trigger warnings, but if you’ve ever wanted Deliverance or Wrong Turn + a revenge story in a novel, this is going to be right up your alley. Not only does it keep you on the edge of your seat, but Kealan manages to craft characters so well. There’s a fairly large cast to the story, yet each of them had their own clear motives (good or bad), and it’s easy to feel some type of way about them all, whether you’re rooting for their success or their imminent dismembering.
I think my favorite thing about Kin (besides the delightfully badass character that is Beau) is the fact that it’s so immersive, it genuinely played out in my head like a horror film. It was so easy to imagine every scene (though sometimes, I didn’t want to imagine things—looking at you, “rebirth”…) and feel like I was right there watching it all unfold. Seriously, if this novel ever gets optioned into a film or miniseries, I’ll be right there on premiere night, soaking it all in.
Content warnings for… uh, everything? Explicit violence, sexual assault, kidnapping, death, suicide, torture, racism, homophobia, list goes on. This one is not for the light of heart (or queasy of stomach).
TITLE: The Sea Was a Fair Master
AUTHOR: Calvin Demmer
RELEASED: June 5th, 2018; Unnerving
AGE RANGE: Adult
The Sea Was a Fair Master is a collection of 23 stories, riding the currents of fantasy, science fiction, crime, and horror. There are tales of murder, death, loss, revenge, greed, and hate. There are also tales of hope, survival, and love.
On these dark blue waves, it is the sea who is judge, jury, and executioner.
I’d heard so much praise within the horror blogging circles I run over this collection that, when I was offered the chance to review The Sea Was a Fair Master, it was a no-brainer—I immediately said yes! I’ve always been very fond of flash fiction (if you’re not familiar, it’s just really short stories!), but it’s difficult to write, and even more difficult to write well. Thankfully, Calvin does an amazing job and I was not disappointed at all!
While I enjoyed all of the stories (minus 2, I think, that missed the mark a little with me), I definitely had some stand-out favorites, so I’ll make it quick and name those off for anyone curious:
→ Restroom Finds: This packed such a fun twist into only a few pages and I loved the description and setting!
→ Fear the Clowns: The ending on this one is so subtle it took me a second to catch, but wow, did I love it!
→ Voodoo Child: Creepy kids, man, you can never trust ’em.
→ The Guests: I don’t know where I thought this was going, but it was NOT where we ended up, and I literally laughed out loud in surprise at the ending. FLAWLESS. Easily my #1 fave of the bunch!
Altogether, Fair Master is such a fun read and I absolutely recommend picking up a copy, whether you’re a long-time lover of flash fiction or brand new to the style—you can’t go wrong with this collection.
Thank you so much to Calvin Demmer for sending me a review copy in exchange for my honest thoughts!
TITLE: Darkest Hours
AUTHOR: Mike Thorn
RELEASED: November 21st, 2017; Unnerving
AGE RANGE: Adult
“In these sharply compelling stories Mike Thorn intertwines the bizarre and the quotidian to form seamless chronicles of personal disaster. The protagonist may not know the precise nature of the catastrophe heading his way, but you get the feeling he’s been anticipating something bad—and inexorable—for a long time.”
— S.P. Miskowski
Haunting, haunting, haunting, and good God, I don’t know why this trauma belongs to me.
There’s something that many lovers of horror literature have come to accept, which is the fact that a lot of horror authors aren’t looking to promote any sort of deeper message or morals—they’re simply putting out a spooky story and hoping it sticks, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Every now and then, though, you find a horror author who can disarm and unsettle you while telling these incredibly meaningful, important stories, and those are the ones that tend to stick with me. Mike Thorn? He’s one of those authors.
Darkest Hours is a deeply disturbing collection that shifts between shocking moments of outright terror and examining the worst parts of the human psyche, reminding us that we’re often surrounded by the scariest monsters of all. He doesn’t pull any punches, but his writing doesn’t rely on only scares and chills—Mike’s got such a witty and fluid style that I would happily reach for again and again.
I didn’t give any story in the collection less than 3 stars, but most of them were far better than that, with these as my favorites:
→ Hair: This is one of the most disgusting and AMAZING short stories I’ve ever read. What a way to kick off a collection!
→ Long Man: The descriptions in some of these scenes were downright nauseating (in the best way), and that ending? Perfect.
→ Sabbatical: This story was the perfect example of the way Mike has this way of setting the stage and then spinning the whole thing on its head and taking you completely off-guard.
→ Lucio Schluter: I had a slight, sinking suspicion about the ending on this one, and it was exactly as gruesome and incredible as I thought it would be. Talk about terrifying.
Altogether, I’m so glad I got the chance to read Darkest Hours and I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out for future releases from Mike Thorn. I highly recommend grabbing a copy of this one as soon as you can!
Thank you so much to Mike Thorn for sending me a review copy in exchange for my honest thoughts!
TITLE: Bone Parish, Vol. 1
AUTHOR: Cullen Bunn
RELEASES: May 7th, 2019; BOOM! Studios
AGE RANGE: Adult
A new drug is sweeping through the streets of New Orleans—one made from the ashes of the dead. Wars are being fought over who will control the supply, and the demand is rising. While the various criminal factions collide, users begin to experience terrifying visions of the dead coming back to life…through them.
I would say to go into this graphic novel knowing as little as possible, because it’s a really cool plotline that takes well to readers going in blind. The artwork isn’t my favorite, but it’s got a nice, grungy feel to it that fits the mood well enough. My only issue with the graphic novel is the same issue I’ve had with other works from Cullen Bunn: I found the storyline and pacing to be very jumpy and hard to follow at points. That said, I’d still definitely recommend checking the story out if you’re intrigued by the synopsis and don’t mind a bit of gore and murder.
Thank you so much to BOOM! Studios for providing me with this ARC in exchange for an honest review!