Isabel Cañas’ striking debut, The Hacienda, is a historical, Gothic horror novel enticing readers with a compelling haunted house tale while making a grab for hearts with a love story nestled in its core.
I’ve been reading Jennifer McMahon’s books forever. I remember running across a few titles in my local, small-town library and binge-reading them both fairly quickly. Her storytelling voice effortlessly draws readers into the lives of her characters who are almost always involved in a dark mystery.
My favorite McMahon book is The Winter People. She’s had several releases since that book, but none of them gave me that same kind of experience.
I’m excited to report that The Children on the Hill is that book.
Mother Horror is going to tell you a little story about a book called Things Have Gotten Worse Since We Last Spoke (THGWSWLS), written by Eric LaRocca. This novella’s ratings on Goodreads are at 20.8K+ with written reviews at 6.6K. These numbers for a book published by a small press like Weird Punk are unheard of. I’ve never seen anything like it.
The Pussy Detective. A title like this elicits a response; an invite to engage right off the bat. For some, it’s off-putting because of the p-word. Others see the title and the amazing retro-inspired artwork and pull the trigger. Some people think it’s a joke or a parody.
“Wait, this book is about women who have lost their pussy and some detective helps them find it?”
That’s exactly right.
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.
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.
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
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.
There are so many important themes to unpack in V. Castro’s The Queen of the Cicadas, that I almost don’t know where to start. First, I’ll entice you with some plot details. There is a dual narrative which involves a present-day wedding ceremony at a farmhouse and a story from the past that takes place at the same location.
The Secret Skin by Wendy Wagner
Neon Hemlock (October 2021)
102 pages; $11.57 paperback
Reviewed by Sadie “Mother Horror” Hartmann
“Last night I dreamed of Storm Break, dear Lillian, for the first time since we escaped that salt place.”
June Vogel returns to her family’s estate on the Oregon Coast after being away for six years. In the tradition of all atmospheric, Gothic storytelling, Wendy Wagner sets the stage perfectly in the prologue, hinting at family tragedy and secrets that will be revealed in time. But with only one hundred pages used to tell the tale, readers don’t have to wait long.
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.
The 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.
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.
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.
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.