Review: Eight Cylinders by Jason Parent

cover of Eight Cylinders by Jason ParentEight Cylinders by Jason Parent
Crystal Lake Publishing (November 2020)
124 pages; $10.99 paperback; $3.99 e-book
Reviewed by Sadie “Mother Horror” Hartmann

Fast cars are not my thing. That whole Fast and Furious movie franchise? Nope. Never saw those. The cover of this book with that muscle car tearing through a desert landscape and the title Eight Cylinders doesn’t appeal to me in the slightest. What does appeal to me is this slim (just over one hundred pages) novella is written by Jason Parent and published by Crystal Lake Publishing. I’m a big fan of both. Crystal Lake consistently publishes quality horror and Parent has a unique storytelling style that I enjoy. Last year, I celebrated his short story, “Russian Dollhouse” from the Midnight in the Graveyard anthology.Continue Reading

Review: The Cipher by Kathe Koja

cover of The Cipher by Kathe KojaThe Cipher by Kathe Koja
Meerkat Press (September 15th, 2020)
236 pages; $17.48 paperback; $3.99 e-book
Reviewed by Sadie “Mother Horror” Hartmann

There’s kind of this unofficial debate among readers concerning those who enjoy unlikable characters and those who need protagonists to be tolerable in order to invest in their story.

I like despicable, flawed people. I think protagonists should be as varied as the people we encounter in real life. I don’t need to like people in order to emotionally invest in their stories — sometimes, hating them is just as fun as loving them.Continue Reading

Review: The Worm and His Kings by Hailey Piper

cover of The Worm and His Kings by Hailey PiperThe Worm and His Kings by Hailey Piper
Off Limits Press (November 15th, 2020)
116 pages; $13.00 paperback; $6.99 e-book
Reviewed by Sadie “Mother Horror” Hartmann

Women in Indie Horror have a powerful voice and if that’s a surprise to you, take note of the popular Best Of Lists from horror reviewers as 2020 comes to a close. You will see these names: Laurel Hightower, Gemma Amor, Samantha Kolesnik, Sara Tantlinger, Gwendolyn Kiste, Cynthia Pelayo, V. Castro, Stephanie Ellis, Jessica Guess, Briana Morgan, and many, many more.

One name I saved for last and special mention. Hailey Piper. Hailey is one to watch. She has had a stellar year of releases starting with the breakout novella, The Possession of Natalie Glasgow. Then it was just one winner after the next: Benny Rose, The Cannibal King (Unnerving), An Invitation to Darkness (Demain Pub), and several short stories in various anthologies.Continue Reading

Interview: Catching Up with Ronald Malfi

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photo of author Ronald Malfi
Ronald Malfi

For me, an avid reader of horror who reads nothing but books in this genre day in and day out, Ronald Malfi is among the legends. He is the award-winning author of several novels, novellas, and two short story collections, and I feel like I have only scratched the surface of his work.

My introduction to his storytelling was the collection, We Should Have Left Well Enough Alone. The first story stood up and punched me square between the eyes, making me a fan for life! I highly recommend it. Later, I went on to read December Park (one of my favorite coming-of-age novels with an intense murder-mystery-thriller storyline) and Bone White (a creature-feature with heart, high-stakes, and themes of loneliness/isolation).

I’m excited that I have more Malfi books to look forward to both from his back catalog of fan-favorites and new releases. We talk about those books and more in this interview.
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Review: WYRD and Other Derelictions by Adam L.G. Nevill

cover of WYRD and Other Derelictions by Adam L.G. NevillWYRD and Other Derelictions by Adam L.G. Nevill
Ritual Limited (October 2020)
106 pages; $7.99 paperback; $3.99 e-book
Reviewed by Sadie “Mother Horror” Hartmann

In the third collection of horror stories from Adam Nevill, something is missing. The “who” and the “what” and the “why” aspects of the story have been intentionally omitted from the narrative and it’s up to you, the reader, to discover and discern these things for yourselves.

Doesn’t that sound…

Horrifying?

Because it is.Continue Reading

Review: The Children of Red Peak by Craig DiLouie

cover of The Children of Red Peak by Craig DiLouie, showing an upside-down photo of trees against a cloudy skyThe Children of Red Peak by Craig DiLouie
Redhook (November 17, 2020)

384 pages; $16.99 hardcover; $9.99 e-book
Reviewed by Sadie “Mother Horror” Hartmann

A group of adults shares the same dark secret. When they were children, they grew up at the foot of a mountain called Red Peak. Isolated from the rest of the world, the children lived through the traumatic experience of life in a cult. Years later, a fellow survivor and friend, takes their own life. The grownup children of Red Peak reunite and re-open old wounds.

What really happened on that last night at Red Peak? Our protagonists, the survivors, must bring to the surface all the painful memories they buried and maybe even take a trip back to where it all happened.Continue Reading

Review: Captain Clive’s Dreamworld by Jon Bassoff

Cover of Captain Clive's Dreamworld by Jon BassoffCaptain Clive’s Dreamworld by Jon Bassoff
Erasherhead Press (October 2020)

234 pages; $15.95 paperback; $5.99 e-book
Reviewed by Sadie “Mother Horror” Hartmann

For anyone that’s ever lived in a small town where everyone knows each other and seems to hold secrets about their next-door neighbors, idyllic town horror is a satisfying trope. Truth is always stranger than fiction and if you live in one small town long enough, you’re bound to uncover some of the strange history and unusual happenings. Sometimes what appears to be perfectly quaint is really just good at hiding its seamy underbelly.

It’s not difficult to suspend disbelief in order to buy into the old adage, “Nothing is as it appears to be.” Or another fitting favorite, “If it’s too good to be true, it probably is.”Continue Reading

Review: Ring Shout by P. Djéli Clark

cover for Ring Shout by P. Djeli ClarkRing Shout by P. Djéli Clark
Tor.com (October 13, 2020)

176 pages; $15.99 hardcover; $9.99 e-book
Reviewed by Sadie “Mother Horror” Hartmann

I read a brief tagline for Ring Shout that was along the lines of, “a dark fantasy historical novella that gives a supernatural twist to the Ku Klux Klan’s reign of terror” and I was sold. I love everything the tagline promises: Dark Fantasy. Historical Fiction. Novella. Supernatural. Give me all of those things.

Ring Shout not only delivered on these promises, but it also flew past all of my expectations making this book a solid contender for my favorite book of 2020.Continue Reading

Review: The Loop by Jeremy Robert Johnson

cover of The Loop by Jeremy Robert JohnsonThe Loop by Jeremy Robert Johnson
Saga Press (September 29, 2020)

320 pages; $26.99 paperback; $9.99 e-book
Reviewed by Sadie Hartmann

You know, if I didn’t have to sleep, eat, or tend to the family during this stay-at-home order, I would have sat and read this one straight through. This book is everything.

Cue some strange intro music like the eerie riffs from X-Files or the digital notes of that synthesized melody from Stranger Things and settle into this binge-worthy genre mashup. Best known for his bizarro-horror style and flavor, Jeremy Robert Johnson is an unexpected hero for the coming-of-age conspiracy thriller genre.Continue Reading

Review: The Ghost Tree by Christina Henry

cover of The Ghost Tree by Christina HenryThe Ghost Tree by Christina Henry
Berkley (September 8, 2020)

432 pages; $13.99 paperback; $11.99 e-book
Reviewed by Sadie Hartmann

Christina Henry entices readers to travel back in time to a small town called Smith’s Hollow. It’s the 1980s. We follow best friends Lauren and Miranda, their longtime friendship seemingly in transition. Miranda is looking to make friends with older boys who drive while Lauren resents being dragged along as a third wheel. 

Wrapped in this compelling coming-of-age story is something more insidious than teenage boys. Two girls Lauren’s age are found murdered, their bodies mutilated, in the backyard of one of her neighbors. Continue Reading

Review: The Raven by Jonathan Janz

The Raven by Jonathan Janz
Flame Tree Press (September 8, 2020)

256 pages; $24.95; $14.95 paperback
Reviewed by Sadie “Mother Horror” Hartmann

Perhaps the most interesting thing about horror is the vast variety in its sub-genres. So many tropes fit under the horror umbrella; I truly believe there’s something for everyone. I passionately believe the horror genre is plenty sufficient to cover any thirst for diversity in your reading. 

My top-shelf writers of horror, the mega-talented, often write books categorized in the full spectrum of the genre. The opposite of the one-trick pony, these authors are part and parcel of horror fiction. 

Jonathan Janz is one of those authors writing bestsellers that cover a lot of ground. Supernatural, paranormal, creature-features, noir, gothic, you name it and Janz has tried it; successfully.Continue Reading

Review: The Residence by Andrew Pyper

cover of The Residence by Andrew PyperThe Residence by Andrew Pyper
Skybound Books (September 1, 2020)

352 pages; $26 hardcover; $13.99 e-book
Reviewed by Sadie “Mother Horror” Hartmann

When I first saw the cover of The Residence, I was skeptical. A ghost story set in the White House? It seemed ambitious. I have a lot of feelings about residents that are currently haunting the White House but none of them are paranormal entities.

Still, the idea was tantalizing so I put in my request to review.Continue Reading

Review: Clown in a Cornfield by Adam Cesare

cover of Clown in a Cornfield by Adam CesareClown in a Cornfield by Adam Cesare
HarperTeen (August 25, 2020)

352 pages; $17.99 hardcover; $9.99 e-book
Reviewed by Sadie Hartmann

The setting for Clown in a Cornfield is the fictional town of Kettle Springs, a rural town that sounds like good ol’ Nowheresville, USA. The townspeople seem caught in a time-warp where young people are to be seen and not heard, especially while the grown-ups are trying hard to “Make Kettle Springs Great Again.” Unfortunately for our protagonist, Quinn Maybrook, her father took a job in Kettle Springs and Quinn has no choice but to adjust to her new scene.Continue Reading

Review: Children of the Fang and Other Genealogies by John Langan

cover of Children of the Fang by John LanganChildren of the Fang and Other Genealogies by John Langan
Word Horde (August 18, 2020)

388 pages; $19.99 paperback; $9.99 e-book
Reviewed by Sadie Hartmann

First things first, the introduction to this book, written by Stephen Graham Jones, is so choice. Bonus points right away for mentioning one of my favorite childhood stories ever: The Monster at the End of This Book (narrated by your lovable ol’ pal, Grover).

Dr. Jones goes on to say, “John Langan, both delivering us some compelling horror but at the same time interrogating the basic form of horror.”Continue Reading

Review: Malorie by Josh Malerman

Malorie by Josh Malerman
Del Rey (July 21, 2020)

304 pages; $19.29 hardcover; $9.99 e-book
Reviewed by Sadie “Mother Horror” Hartmann

From my review of Bird Box in 2018:

Our protagonist, Malorie, is young and a little naive. There is a global calamity going on and she seems very preoccupied with her own circumstances. As a reader, you are concerned with our protagonist’s perspective—can she navigate through this story safely for us? I wanted a more reliable, capable protagonist to be honest but this is a horror novel and I came prepared for the worst. And the worst did come…

…This was an engaging, edge of your seat read. I loved every hair-raising moment. A solid work of horror, suspense and apocalyptic storytelling.

Continue Reading