Review: Dancing With Maria’s Ghost by Alessandro Manzetti

cover of Dancing with Maria's GhostDancing With Maria’s Ghost by Alessandro Manzetti
Independent Legions (December 2021)
65 pages; $11.90 paperback, $2.99 ebook
Reviewed by Anton Cancre

Alessandro Manzetti always does a great job of evoking a narrative with his poems. He has figured out a great balance of information given and withheld within the swirling images his poems paint that hints at the larger narrative beyond what we are given. I love it. So, when he has a narrative stretched over fifteen poems, you know I’m in. Continue Reading

Review: The Taking of Jake Livingston by Ryan Douglass

cover of The Taking of Jake Livingston by Ryan DouglassThe Taking of Jake Livingston by Ryan Douglass 
G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers (July 2021) 
244 pages; hardcover $14.39; $10.99 e-book; $35 audiobook (or 1 Audible credit) 
Reviewed by Haley Newlin 

It seems impossible to turn something so pretty so ugly, but it’s not. Everything turns ugly after it’s dead.

? Ryan Douglass, The Taking of Jake Livingston

I stumbled on The Taking of Jake Livingston through one of my favorite YouTube channels, BowTies & Books. According to the channel host, BookTube collectively held its breath for the release of this YA horror story.

And I can see why. Continue Reading

Review: Devil House by John Darnielle

cover of Devil HouseDevil House by John Darnielle
Farrar, Straus and Giroux (January 2022)
416 pages; $20.16 hardcover; $14.99 e-book
Reviewed by Blu Gilliand

Diving into John Darnielle’s Devil House is akin to entering a hedge maze: there are twists and turns ahead, and a few dead ends, and there will be times where you feel a little lost, but for the most part it’s a worthy journey.Continue Reading

Review: Dead Silence by S.A. Barnes

cover of Dead SilenceDead Silence by S.A. Barnes
Tor Nightfire (February 8th, 2022)
352 pages; $23.99 hardback; $13.99 e-book
Reviewed by Sadie “Mother Horror” Hartmann

Dead Silence makes use of well-loved tropes within the sci-fi horror sub-genre while introducing elements borrowed from popular modern thrillers. A genre mash-up that easily captivates its audience but struggles to utilize that up-front investment to maintain interest.Continue Reading

Review: I Hear the Clattering of the Keys by Jamie Stewart

cover of I Hear the Clattering of the KeysI Hear The Clattering of the Keys by Jamie Stewart 
Blood Rites Horror (November 2021) 
175 pages; $7.99 paperback ; $2.99 ebook
Reviewed by Haley Newlin

In the past, when I’ve read horror short story collections, I’ve found them a bit insular; they’re always too fast, and the payoff isn’t consistent.

I Hear The Clattering of the Keys is a horrific web of tragedy, love, and the supernatural — a complete antithesis of what’s turned me off to short stories in the past. Continue Reading

Review: Ibitsu by Haruto Ryo

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cover of Ibitsu by Haturo Ryo

Ibitsu by Haruto Ryo
Yen Press (July 2018)
416 pages; $20 hardcover, $9.99 ebook
Reviewed by Danica Davidson

Ibitsu comes from the Japanese word for “twisted,” and it follows a creepy urban legend. The main character Kazuki is walking along at night when he sees someone dressed in Gothic Lolita style sitting in the garbage. Lolita is a fashion style in Japan with lots of frills and Victorian influences that has multiple substyles. One of those substyles is Gothic Lolita, where the frills and little girl look is also strongly influenced by gothic, morbid and dark imagery.

Kazuki thinks she’s creepy, especially because it looks as if blood might be seeping from her, and it looks as if her arm had been ripped open and then sewn back together. She asks him, “Would you . . . have a little sister?”Continue Reading

Review: Saltblood by T.C. Parker

cover of Saltblood by T.C. ParkerSaltblood by T.C. Parker
Independently Published (August 2020)
306 pages; $11.99 paperback; $2.99 e-book
Reviewed by Sadie “Mother Horror” Hartmann

Imagine a world where public opinion is measured by real units and offending people whose behavior results in accumulating a high amount of units, get shipped off to an isolated location to live out a predetermined sentence.

The concept of Saltblood by T.C. Parker is quite terrifying, actually. Public opinion is so fickle and subjective. I hate the thought of a majority of people who don’t really know you passing judgment with real consequences based on perceived reality; your reputation and not your character. No facts, just opinions. The power to strip you from your life and throw you away.
Utterly horrifying.Continue Reading

Review: Pangaea: Prose and Poetry by Hinna Mian

cover of Pangaea: Prose and PoetryPangaea: Prose and Poetry by Hinnah Mian
Central Avenue Publishing (February 8, 2022)
128 pages; $16.99 paperback
Reviewed by Joshua Gage

Hinnah Mian is a Pakistani American poet and author whose work has appeared in Harness Magazine, JUMP, Blue Minaret, and The Rising Phoenix Review. Her first book, To Build a Home, won silver in the Readers’ Favorite International Book Awards. She spends her time journaling, exploring, and living out her days with the love of her life — her dog, Felix. Her newest collection, Pangaea: Prose and Poetry explores the horrors and traumas inflicted on one’s body in a striking and poignant collection.Continue Reading

Review: Sister Funtime by Spencer Hamilton

cover of Sister Funtime by Spencer HamiltonSister Funtime by Spencer Hamilton 
Nerdy Wordsmith (November 2021)
140 pages; $9.99 paperback; $2.99 e-book 
Reviewed by Haley Newlin

There’s an old saying that water can wear away stone, but only over hundreds of years. In a classic Stephen King novel, Christine, a characterargues that people are not stone, but mortal.

Spencer Hamilton’s Sister Funtime untethers this phrase from such limitations and instead strangles it into a festering devout, sinister power — something inhuman and hungry for flesh. Continue Reading

Review: Coffin Honey by Todd Davis

cover of Coffin Honey by Todd DavisCoffin Honey by Todd Davis
Michigan State University Press (February 1, 2022)
147 pages; $19.95 paperback
Reviewed by Joshua Gage

In Coffin Honey, Todd Davis explores themes of violence and how people hurt each other. The book is broken into sections, each one reading like a short story told in narrative poems, which makes for some haunting connections between the poems. For example, the first section contains the poem “Taxidermy: Cathartes Aura” with lines like:

The bird’s spiraling descent
was unexpected, like when
his uncle touched him
in the cellar as he shoveled
coal for winter, telling him
he couldn’t have the fried
doughnuts sprinkled
with confectioner’s sugar
if he screamed
or told his mother.

Continue Reading

Review: Exposed Nerves by Lucy A. Snyder

cover of exposed nerves by lucy snyderExposed Nerves by Lucy A. Snyder
Raw Dog Screaming Press (September 2021)
114 pages; paperback $12.95; $5.99 e-book
Reviewed by Joshua Gage

Exposed Nerves is a collection of feminist horror poems, mostly in the narrative or lyric vein. Lucy A. Snyder excels at taking a known trope — the big bad wolf in “Wolf Waltz” or rapists in “My Neighbor Defends Her Champion” — and flipping the perspective. A lot of these poems use their subjects to make social commentary, which is one of the main purposes of horror. Snyder often takes the women in her poems and allows them to triumph over evil. In “turnt,” for example, a teenage girl is lured into a older boy’s automobile until she can’t help but turning into a ferocious beast:

pulse hammering inside the secluded car
skin splitting over hairy muscle, scarlet claws
and he’s screaming, wailing like he’s burning

Here the hunted becomes the hunter, and while the idea of a teenage werewolf is certainly nothing new, Snyder’s imagery and metaphorical language makes the redemptive story fresh and interesting for readers. 

There are times when Snyder’s poems, however, seem to teeter into weak craft decisions. “The Unforgiving King,” for example, has stanzas that seem based on a haiku “syllable count” (which is, of course, a linguistic misunderstanding that has been disputed and disproven by poetry scholars) but show no understanding of how the haiku form works. “The Invisible Woman,” a poem written with Gary A. Braunbeck, suffers from weak lines and poorly executed line breaks, but its strong imagery and overriding metaphor overwhelm its flawed structure. How much of this is Snyder’s fault or just poor curation or editing one can’t tell, but these flaws are few and far between, and the collection doesn’t suffer greatly because of them.

Overall, Exposed Nerves by Lucy A. Snyder is a relatively strong collection of feminist horror poems. While there are a few misses, most of the poems stand up to scrutiny and the overarching themes within the collection — angry defiance against a threatening patriarchy and a thirst for revenge and justice — are current and necessary. This is a solid collection of horror poetry which readers will very much enjoy.

Review: Mestiza Blood by V. Castro

cover of Mestiza Blood by V. CastroMestiza Blood by V. Castro
Flame Tree Press (January 25, 2022)
240 pages; $26.95 hardcover; $16.95 paperback; $6.99 e-book
Reviewed by Sadie “Mother Horror” Hartmann

After a string of successful releases, Hairspray & Switchblades (Unnerving Press) Goddess of Filth (Creature Publishing) and Queen of the Cicadas (Flame Tree Press) V. Castro unleashes her first short story collection, Mestiza Blood.

A short story collection of nightmares, dreams, desires, & visions of the chicana experience

Continue Reading

Review: The Last House on Needless Street by Catriona Ward

posed bookstagram photo featuring The Last House on Needless Street
Photo: Haley Newlin

The Last House On Needless Street by Catriona Ward 
Tor Night Fire (September 2021)
352 pages; $24.79 audiobook,  $19.29 paperback, $14.99 ebook
Reviewed by Haley Newlin

Catriona Ward’s The Last House on Needless Street promises a serial killer, a kidnapped child, a religious cat, and falsities scattered in every direction — one misstep and the trap snaps.
The main character, Ted, carries childhood trauma, a strange attachment to his abusive mother, and a dangerous, twisted side that reminds me of the real-world serial killer, Ed Gein, who went on to inspire characters like Norman Bates and Thomas Harris’ Buffalo Bill.

Review: Burner by Robert Ford

cover of Burner by Robert FordBurner by Robert Ford
Blurred Images Press (November 2020)
230 pages; $12.99 paperback; $.99 e-book
Reviewed by Sadie “Mother Horror” Hartmann

In Burner by Robert Ford, readers are introduced to two characters, Iris and Audrey. We follow their story through “then” and “now” timelines told in short, bingeable chapters that switch back and forth between the two women.

If you read the preface, you will know that Burner deals with a heavy subject and has the potential to cause emotional trauma, so I recommend reading the preface. Bob Ford does a great job setting early expectations.Continue Reading

Review: Velvet Was the Night by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

cover of Velvet Was the Night by Silvia Moreno-GarciaVelvet Was the Night by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Del Rey (August 2021)
288 pages; hardcover $14; paperback $20.48; e-book $13.99
Reviewed by Haley Newlin

They were both angry at the world, that was why this was happening. It was a kiss of scorpions, both heavy with poison.

Once again, Silvia Moreno-Garcia exhibits the versatility of her eloquent storytelling in her noir/pulp fiction novel Velvet Was the Night.Continue Reading