Review: The Feverish Stars by John Shirley

cover of The Feverish Stars by John ShirleyThe Feverish Stars by John Shirley
Independent Legions Publishing (March 2021)
306 pages; $22.35 paperback; $5.90 e-book

Reviewed by Rick Hipson

A kaleidoscope of stunning visuals, The Feverish Stars delivers a bullet of an experience which ricochets off every nerve and fiber of the imagination. Firing its trajectory on a one-way collision course with any expectations you might have, Shirley grabs your senses by the roots and coaxes with a lust for more. Against the maelstrom of a sci-fi punk master’s deliberate muse, every word strikes down like a hammer of poetic reckoning, smashing down gates to portals of fantastical realms. There can be no return without alteration, but isn’t that what we’re all here for?Continue Reading

Review: The Boy with the Spider Face by AJ Franks

cover of The Boy with the Spider Face by AJ FranksThe Boy with the Spider Face by AJ Franks
Crystal Lake Publishing (November 26, 2021)
126 pages; TBA paperback; TBA e-book
Reviewed by Sadie “Mother Horror” Hartmann

In this young adult, coming-of-age horror novella, AJ Franks imagines what life would look like for a teenage boy with an actual spider-face. The story unfolds rather quickly with the protagonist, Jeff Pritchet, struggling to lead a normal life but realizing that nothing will be easy for a boy with his unique condition. At school, Jeff befriends “the new kid” which introduces a combination of subtle queer themes and very heavy-handed racism.Continue Reading

Review: The Strange Things We Become and Other Dark Tales by Eric LaRocca

cover of The Strange Things We Become and Other Dark Tales by Eric LaRoccaThe Strange Things We Become and Other Dark Tales by Eric LaRocca
Off Limits Press (September 2021)
128 pages; $13 paperback; $6.99 e-book
Reviewed by Sadie “Mother Horror” Hartmann

Nobody could comfortably follow an act in indie horror fiction like Things Have Gotten Worse Since We Last Spoke, except Eric LaRocca with another release.
Things Have Gotten Worse… broke every record for sales and reviews I have ever seen for an indie release. That book was released in June and just three months later, here we are with The Strange Things We Become.Continue Reading

Review: Yours Cruelly, Elvira by Cassandra Peterson

cover of Yours Cruelly, Elvira, by Cassandra PetersonYours Cruelly, Elvira by Cassandra Peterson
Hachette Books (September 2021)
305 pages; $22.99 hardcover, $14.99 ebook, $29.65 audiobook (or 1 audible credit)
Reviewed by Haley Newlin

Q: If your new memoir Yours Cruelly, Elvira is adapted into a movie, who would you want to play you?
A: Dolly Parton! We have the same…uhm.. assets.

Quote from Barnes & Noble Virtually Presents: Cassandra Peterson Celebrates Yours Cruelly, Elvira (Sept. 21, 2021).

I had the immense pleasure of reading Cassandra Peterson’s new memoir, Yours Cruelly, Elvira, and attending a live event celebrating the release.

Two opportunities I know I’ll never forget. I mean, it’s damn near impossible to forget the cheeky, tassel-twirling queen of Halloween.Continue Reading

Review: Cats of the Pacific Northwest by J.W. Donley

cover of Cats of the Pacific Northwest by J.W. DonleyCats of the Pacific Northwest by J.W. Donley
Dark Forest Press (July 2021)
74 pages; $6.99 paperback; $2.99 e-book
Reviewed by R.B. Payne

Most horror fans learned about horror through seemingly innocent fairy tales read to us by loving parents before bedtime. Illustrated in fanciful colors on glossy paper, and lit by golden lamplight, we were tucked in with visions of cannibal witches, evil sisters, dark spells and curses, goblins, and trolls beneath bridges.Continue Reading

Review: The Potted Plant by Thomas Gloom

cover of The Potted Plant by Thomas GloomThe Potted Plant by Thomas Gloom 
Gloom Publishing (October 2021)
134 pages; $7.99 paperback, $2.99 Kindle, $6.08 audiobook (or 1 Audible credit) 
Reviewed by Haley Newlin

Thomas Gloom’s eco-horror novella, The Potted Plant, immediately pulled me in with a cover that:

1) sneaks in an animation of Gloom’s author persona, who is never without his shades — and which I’m sure also depicts the narrator of the tale; and

2) parallels what I imagine was a lot of fans’ gateway into the horror genre — Little Shop of Horrors. Continue Reading

Review: The House of Little Bones by Beverly Lee

cover of The House of Little Bones by Beverly LeeThe House of Little Bones by Beverly Lee
Self-Published (September 2021)
126 pages; $8.99 paperback; $2.99 e-book
Reviewed by Sadie “Mother Horror” Hartmann

As far as this reader knows, The House of Little Bones is Beverley Lee’s first novella-length release. At just under two hundred pages, fans of Lee’s literary prose and gothic storytelling style will love this fast-paced chiller.Continue Reading

Review: Swine by Tyrone Finch and Alain Mauricet

cover of SwineSwine by Tyrone Finch and Alain Mauricet
Humanoids (October 2021)
144 pages; $19.99 paperback
Reviewed by Joshua Gage

Tyrone Finch hails from Cleveland, Ohio. What? That’s not enough? Okay, his favorite color is blue, he’s not fond of green olives and he doesn’t understand maraschino cherries. He loves Earth, Wind and Fire and he will make you love them too. Tyrone likes to write all kinds of stuff. TV stuff. Movie stuff. Short story stuff. Shopping list stuff. For more info on the stuff Tyrone likes to write, just catch him on the street and ask him. His newest graphic novel is Swine, a revenge horror narrative based on a Biblical story that’s funny, clever, and really fun to read.Continue Reading

Review: Nightbitch by Rachel Yoder

cover of the book Nightbitch sitting alongside a plate of bloody meat
Photo by Haley Newlin

Nightbitch by Rachel Yoder
Doubleday (July 2021)
256 pages; $20.49 hardcover; $12.99 e-book
Reviewed by Haley Newlin

“Too much power makes a woman dangerous. And that was her project, creation and power.” — Rachel Yoder

Rachel Yoder’s Nightbitch is a horrifically brilliant mirage of Jekyll and Hyde meets the estranged relationship of women and society. The story follows a stay-at-home mother, aka Nightbitch (we never get her real name), who spends her days resenting the role she feels trapped in as a constant caregiver. She longs for the simplest of things — a shower, a glass of wine, to return to her artwork. Instead, Nightbitch plays trains with her son, cleans up his strand of messes in the house, and deals with his tantrums.

On top of it all, Nightbitch develops a thick coat of hair at the base of her neck, not to mention a matching tail.

In her transformation, Nightbitch finds an animalistic, protective connection to her son — who she begins to see as a pup — she hadn’t had before, and an odd sense of individuality.

Nightbitch is one of the most bizarre books I’ve ever read. And yet, it’s among the most intelligent stories, alluding to the style of Mary Shelley, Shirley Jackson, and Franz Kafka.

Without outright belonging to the horror genre, Yoder lines the pages of Nightbitch with bloodthirst and an unsettling craving for carnage. And the best part, these animalistic qualities are all woman, or, rather, a grim and poetic depiction of the unspoken rage, exhaustion, and longing crashing the joys of motherhood.

While reading, I constantly felt torn between liberation and questioning Nightbitch’s sanity — a complicated and wildly entertaining tug-and-pull.

Nightbitch is certainly not for everyone, and it has a heavy philosophical weight. Though I enjoyed the literary qualities, I’d definitely have to be in the mood for such an interpretive read.

I wish more universities, particularly those studying feminist literary theory, would share this book with students. It’s a hell of a metaphor for modern femininity and the accompanying pressures.

I recommend Nightbitch for readers who enjoy literary fiction with dark fantasy and horror elements, such as monsters or the combination of lore and philosophy.

Review: Cackle by Rachel Harrison

cover of Cackle by Rachel HarrisonCackle by Rachel Harrison
Berkley (October 2021)
304 pages; $19.99 hardcover; $14.99 e-book
Reviewed by Sadie “Mother Horror” Hartmann

Cackle by Rachel Harrison is a mixed bag of emotions. The story centers on Annie Crane, a woman looking for a fresh start after her boyfriend moves their relationship into the friendzone. She leaves the city for a quaint, little rental in a small town.

Things do not go well. Annie is consumed with her feelings about the break-up and her new job at the local high school is only adding to her lack of self-esteem. None of her new co-workers make her feel welcomed and the students in her class are not cooperative.

Then she meets Sophie and everything begins to change.Continue Reading

Review: Flowers for the Sea by Zin E. Rocklyn

cover of Flowers for the Sea Flowers for the Sea by Zin E. Rocklyn (October 2021)
108 pages; paperback $13.99; e-book $3.99
Reviewed by Janelle Janson

The combination of horror and fantasy is a partnership I am completely enamored with. The notion that you can connect with a character set in a fantastical world, who might not even be human, with added terrifying elements, creates a thrilling read. These authors keep creating gorgeous, remarkable stories that fill you with both sadness and wonder.Continue Reading

Review: Faithless by Hunter Shea

cover of Faithless by Hunter SheaFaithless by Hunter Shea
Flame Tree Press (October 19, 2021)
304 pages; $24.95 hardcover ; $14.95 paperback ; $6.99 e-book
Reviewed by Janine Pipe

Faithless is the latest novel by Hunter Shea from Flame Tree Press and, yet again, he knocks it out of the park. I don’t hide the fact that Hunter is my favorite writer (alongside Glenn Rolfe) but there is a very good reason for this—he never fails to deliver.Continue Reading

Review: Rookfield by Gordon B. White

cover of Rookfield by Gordon B. WhiteRookfield by Gordon B. White
Trepidatio Publishing (October 15, 2021)
108 pages; $12.95 paperback; $5.95 e-book
Reviewed by Sadie “Mother Horror” Hartmann

An unusual horror story set during a global pandemic, Rookfield hits close to home.

A man named Cabot, seriously lacking in self-awareness and full of privilege, is looking for his son and estranged wife in a small town called Rookfield. Leana apparently fled to the small town under marital duress. It’s suggested that perhaps Cabot and Leana didn’t see eye to eye when it came to the ways they would be handling the pandemic and the protection of their son’s health and safety.Continue Reading

Review: Stars, Hide Your Fire by Kel McDonald and Jose Pimienta

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cover of Stars, Hide Your Fire by Kel McDonald and Jose Pimienta

Stars, Hide Your Fire by Kel McDonald and Jose Pimienta
Iron Circus Comics (October 5, 2021)
162 pages; paperback $15; $9.99 e-book
Reviewed by Joshua Gage

Andrea and Darra live in a dead-end Massachusetts town, making their way through high school with hopeful (but slim) dreams of escape. Everything’s going according to plan until a chance encounter with an otherworldly spirit named Carmen changes everything! Carmen promises Andrea eternal life, but a mysterious young boy named Liam shows up claiming he had also made a deal with Carmen, and it didn’t go well . . . 100 years ago. Liam must convince his new friends of Carmen’s evil nature before Andrea is tricked into a supernatural bargain that will upend her new life before it even starts in Stars, Hide Your Fire written by Kel McDonald and illustrated by Joe Pimienta.Continue Reading

Review: Sleepless by Romy Hausmann

cover of Sleepless by Romy HausmannSleepless by Romy Hausmann
Flatiron Books (October 19, 2021)
336 pages; $23.99 hardcover; $13.99 e-book
Reviewed by Blu Gilliand

Nadja Kulka was convicted of a serious crime as a child, did her time, and is doing her best to move on. She lives a quiet, lonely life, happy for even the slightest attention given her by the closest thing she has to a friend — a woman named Laura. Laura’s been keeping to herself lately, but when something in her life goes horribly wrong, she runs to Nadja for help.

Soon, Nadja finds herself entangled in the violent aftermath of an extramarital affair gone wrong. Nadja, Laura, and Laura’s husband, Gero, all have their own agendas and objectives, and it all comes to a head with life-altering consequences.Continue Reading