Review: Seth’s Christmas Ghost Stories (2023 Edition)

Seth's Christmas Stories 2023Seth’s Christmas Ghost Stories 2023 Set
Biblioasis (December 2023)
$25 paperback set
Reviewed by Blu Gilliand

These annual sets of ghost stories from cartoonist Seth and publisher Biblioasis has, over the last few years, become one of my favorite holiday traditions. The 2023 set arrives bearing three creepy stories and an armload of stark, atmospheric illustrations that perfectly capture and bolster them to chilling effect.Continue Reading

Review: Sackhead – The Definitive Retrospective on Friday the 13th Part 2 by R.G. Henning

cover of SackheadSackhead: The Definitive Retrospective on Friday the 13th Part 2 by R.G. Henning
Independently Published (January 2023)
277 pages; $18.99 paperback
Reviewed by Blu Gilliand

Despite the legal entanglements that have stunted the growth of the Friday the 13th series for years, the popularity of the movies, and Jason Voorhees in particular, continues to grow. Friday fans are bombarded now with more t-shirts, soundtrack releases, action figures and merchandise than was ever available when new movies were being made. The series has seen its share of making-of books as well, including a couple on the first movie (Making Friday the 13th and On Location in Blairstown), plus a massive series-spanning tome called Crystal Lake Memories that stands as one of the best behind-the-scenes books ever devoted to a film franchise, if not the best.Continue Reading

Review: The Last Day and the First by Tim Lebbon

cover of The Last Day and the FirstThe Last Day and the First by Tim Lebbon
PS Publishing (July 2023)
72 pages; $24 hardcover
Reviewed by Blu Gilliand

In Tim Lebbon’s novella The Last Day and the First, we miss the apocalypse. It’s already happened. We miss the confusion, the destruction, the panic, the bloodshed. We miss the desperate struggle for survival. We miss the loss of life and the downfall of society.

What we get instead is the last few, quiet breaths of humanity as we give way to the next inhabitants of this world.

Lebbon’s greatest gift as a writer is his ability to find the beauty and strength in otherwise horrific circumstances. Here we have a village with a handful of inhabitants, living out their lives deep in the safe green spaces between the crumbled remains of cities. As long as they stay off the roads they’re relatively safe; cross one of those ribbons of asphalt and they’re apt to be killed by something they call a scorer.

Soon they stumble across a strange new sight, something they come to call the bloom. Before long, it becomes apparent that this, and other blooms that crop up in the wild, are not a new danger; rather, they are a next step for a healing planet.

There’s a melancholy tone to this story, a peaceful sort of acceptance the main character, Rose (who may in fact be the last woman alive) adopts as she realizes she is witnessing humanity’s final days. There’s no anger, no last-ditch effort to turn the tide, no race for a cure or a weapon or an answer. There’s just understanding, and a strange kind of hope for a future none of us will be around to witness.

Tim Lebbon is an author we don’t talk about enough. The Last Day and the First is a reminder of how powerful his work is, and how lucky we are to have him out there, creating stories for our enjoyment.

Also, I’d be remiss not to give a quick shout-out to artist Tamislav Tikulin for the gorgeous cover art gracing this book.

The Last Day and the First is highly recommended.

Review: Fearless by M.W. Craven

cover of FearlessFearless by M.W. Craven
Flatiron Books (July 2023)
416 pages; $28.99 hardcover; $14.99 e-book
Reviewed by Blu Gilliand

We’ve all seen multiple movies and read multiple books in which the heroes are described as “fearless,” meaning they are able to put aside their self-preservation instincts and do what needs to be done in the face of grave danger.

In M.W. Craven’s thriller Fearless, the scenario is a little different. Ben Koenig is a man who literally cannot feel fear. As cool as that sounds, it’s a condition that often puts Ben — and those around him — in danger.

Koenig is a man on the run, a U.S. Marshal who upset the wrong people and has a sizeable bounty on his head. He’s pulled out of the shadows by an old friend whose daughter has gone missing. Koenig is convinced the woman is already dead, but he agrees to go on the hunt for her…and for those who took her.  The chase leads Koenig down a dangerous, elaborate rabbit hole that involves warring cartels, solar energy, and a passel of angry Russians.

Craven is an award-winning crime writer who has the thriller format down pat. Short chapters (most of them only three pages) and constant forward momentum make this a quick, fun read. There’s not a lot in the way of characterization — Koenig’s backstory gets a good amount of attention, but the supporting cast is barely sketched out — but that’s not the point of a book like Fearless. This is all about the action, and Craven deals it out on nearly every page.

The back of my advance copy screams “Major Streaming News to Come,” and I can see this becoming a really fun piece of episodic content.

Fearless is crammed with shooting, chasing, hand-to-hand combat, scene-chewing villains, tough guys and tough ladies, plot twists and surprising revelations. If that’s your idea of the perfect summer thriller, you won’t be disappointed.

Review: The Siberia Job by Josh Haven

cover of The Siberia Job by Josh HavenThe Siberia Job by Josh Haven
Mysterious Press (June 6, 2023)
384 pages; $26.95 hardcover; $17.49 e-book
Reviewed by Blu Gilliand

I thought, This is either going to go right over my head, or it’s going to bore me to tears.

Fortunately, thanks to the skilled writing of Josh Haven, The Siberia Job is neither boring or bewildering. Instead, this “lightly fictionalized” account of true events is a taut thrill ride through post-Soviet Russia.Continue Reading

Review: Everything the Darkness Eats by Eric LaRocca

cover of Everything the Darkness Eats by Eric LaRoccaEverything the Darkness Eats by Eric LaRocca
CLASH Books (June 20, 2023)
202 pages; $16.95 paperback; $10.99 e-book
Reviewed by Blu Gilliand

Eric LaRocca brings cosmic horror to a small Connecticut town in his dark, grim new novel, Everything the Darkness Eats.

An old man, concealing miraculous powers in a frail frame, is prowling the streets of Henley’s Edge, plucking a handful of citizens from their everyday lives to use as pawns in a mysterious, arcane ritual. His final and most important pawn is a man who is barely existing, a man teetering on the edge of a void of grief and sorrow. Drawn into the old man’s scheme, he finds he has two choices: fight for the light, or be consumed by the darkness.

LaRocca brings some serious Clive Barker vibes to the table in everything from character names (Ghost, Heart, Saint Fleece) to the concept of a glowing orb (“…scabbed with ancient constellations, crusted with distant galaxies…”) that may or may not be God. It’s heady stuff, but LaRocca keeps everything grounded, putting us inside the head of various characters, letting us see things from many different points of view.

At its core, Everything the Darkness Eats is about survival; or, more accurately, the will to survive. What drives people to keep moving forward in the wake of unthinkable tragedy and unimaginable despair? What enables someone to walk through the dark shadow of grief in search of the merest glimmer of hope?

This is no easy, breezy summer read. It’s bleak, but not without light, and not without hope. LaRocca has been steadily building a solid reputation in the horror genre, and this novel represents a giant step forward for him. Strongly recommended.


Review: All the Sinners Bleed by S.A. Cosby

cover of All the Sinners BleedAll the Sinners Bleed by S.A. Cosby
Flatiron Books (June 6, 2023)
352 pages; $23.79 hardcover; $14.99 e-book
Reviewed by Blu Gilliand

Blending social issues, unforgettable characters, and razor-sharp prose, S.A. Cosby has muscled his way to the front of the crime fiction genre. Cosby’s newest, All the Sinners Bleed, showcases his horror/thriller roots in a way we haven’t seen since his debut novel, My Darkest Prayer, and stands poised to cement the author’s position as the new king of the crime hill.Continue Reading

Review: The Insatiable Volt Sisters by Rachel Eve Moulton

cover of The Insatiable Volt SistersThe Insatiable Volt Sisters by Rachel Eve Moulton
MCD x FSG Orginals (April 2023)
464 pages: $16.20 paperback; $12.99 e-book
Reviewed by Blu Gilliand

Rachel Eve Moulton mixes familial drama and supernatural horror in The Insatiable Volt Sisters, a long, eerie novel that lulls you in but never lets you get too comfortable.Continue Reading

Review: Scratching the Flint by Vern Smith

cover of Scratching the FlintScratching the Flint by Vern Smith
Run Amok Crime (April 15, 2023)
242 pages; $17.99 paperback
Reviewed by Blu Gilliand

Vern Smith’s Scratching the Flint is a street-level look at crime and punishment revolving around a small-time auto theft ring and the two detectives tasked with busting it up.

Alex Johnson, a veteran of the Toronto police force, is teamed up with — some might say burdened with — Cecil Bolan, a hot-headed detective who often bucks against the obstacles that bureaucracy and politics place in the path of police work. When an old buddy Cecil uses as an informant is murdered, followed closely by a prostitute Cecil has befriended, he sets his sights on the crew of car thieves and their nervous, paranormal leader.Continue Reading

Review: All Hallows by Christopher Golden

cover of All Hallows by Christopher GoldenAll Hallows by Christopher Golden
St. Martin’s Press (January 24, 2023)
336 pages: $22.99 hardcover; $14.99 e-book
Reviewed by Blu Gilliand

Christopher Golden sets us up for what sounds like a perfect Halloween night in the opening chapters of his novel All Hallows…and then viciously, gleefully rips it all apart.

It’s 1984 in Coventry, Massachusetts. The kids on Parmenter Road are looking forward to a night of trick-or-treating; the adults are looking forward to the party that starts once the trick-or-treating is done; and everyone is looking forward to a visit to the Haunted Woods, one family’s tradition that’s grown into a much-anticipated annual event. On the surface, things are great. But behind that thin veneer of neighborly civility, things are coming to a boil.Continue Reading

Review: Seth’s Christmas Ghost Stories (2022)

Seth’s Christmas Ghost Stories (2022 Set)
Biblioasis (October 2021)
$7.95 each; $25 set of three
Reviewed by Blu Gilliand

Reading a ghost story on Christmas Eve was once as much a part of traditional Christmas celebrations as turkey, eggnog, and Santa Claus.

This statement, found on the back of each of the three paperbacks in the 2022 Christmas Ghost Stories set from Biblioasis, is just another reminder that I was born in the wrong era. Ghost stories on Christmas Eve? Sign me up!Continue Reading

Review: Close to Midnight edited by Mark Morris

cover of Close to MidnightClose to Midnight edited by Mark Morris
Flame Tree Press (October 2022)
304 pages; $26.95 hardcover; $16.95 paperback; $6.99 e-book
Reviewed by Blu Gilliand

Opening an anthology of horror stories is like opening your candy bag after a long night of trick-or-treating: you hope the chocolate treats and peanut butter cups outweigh the licorice and Circus Peanuts.

With Close to Midnight, out this month from Flame Tree Press, editor Mark Morris fills up readers’ bags with king-sized candy bars, proving his is the house to go to on Halloween night.Continue Reading

How I Spend My Halloween: V. Castro

banner reading How I Spend My Halloween

If you know anything about Cemetery Dance, you know that the arrival of October…The Spooky Season…is a very special time of year for us. To celebrate, we’ve invited some of our favorite spinners of spooky tales to share their favorite Halloween traditions and memories with us.

Today we’re joined by V. Castro, Mexican American author, full-time mother, Latinx literary advocate, and co-founder of Fright Girl Summer, a platform to amplify marginalized voices. Continue Reading

How I Spend My Halloween: Stephen Graham Jones

banner reading How I Spend My Halloween

If you know anything about Cemetery Dance, you know that the arrival of October…The Spooky Season…is a very special time of year for us. To celebrate, we’ve invited some of our favorite spinners of spooky tales to share their favorite Halloween traditions and memories with us.

Today we’re joined by Stephen Graham Jones, whose novel My Heart is a Chainsaw took the horror genre by storm last year and will, in true slasher tradition, be followed by at least two sequels.
Continue Reading

Review: Southern Fried & Horrified by Ronald Kelly

Southern Fried & HorrifiedSouthern Fried & Horrified by Ronald Kelly
Stygian Sky Media (September 2022)
245 pages; $70 limited edition hardcover; $15.95 paperback
Reviewed by Blu Gilliand

Veteran horror author Ronald Kelly has a new book out, and — as expected — it’s chock full of unusual and horrific elements like rats scratching in bedroom walls, and women with second sight having troublesome visions, and eerie encounters with sketchy clowns.

Things is, this book is nonfiction.Continue Reading