Review: Gallows Hill by Darcy Coates

cover of Gallows HillGallows Hill by Darcy Coates
Poisoned Pen Press (September 2022) 
384 pages; $12.99 paperback; $4.99 ebook
Reviewed by Haley Newlin

Deep in the hills of a small town, a cloud of birds explode into the sky. Their screeches disturbed as though their shelter surged jolts of pain into them.

It’s haunted. Well, some thought so. Others say Gallows Hill was cursed, laced with a poisonous vestige of murder and betrayal.Continue Reading

Review: Not a Princess, but (Yes) There was a Pea, and Other Fairy Tales to Foment Revolution by Rebecca Buchanan

cover of Not A Princes...Not a Princess, but (Yes) There was a Pea, and Other Fairy Tales to Foment Revolution by Rebecca Buchanan
Jackanapes Press (September 2022)
170 pages; $15.99 paperback
Reviewed by Joshua Gage

Rebecca Buchanan is the editor of the Pagan literary ezine Eternal Haunted Summer, and is also a regular contributor to ev0ke: witchcraft*paganism*lifestyle. She is also the editor-in-chief of Bibliotheca Alexandrina, the publishing arm of Neos Alexandria. Her newest collection of fairy tale poems is Not a Princess, but (Yes) There was a Pea, and Other Fairy Tales to Foment Revolution.Continue Reading

Review: Reluctant Immortals by Gwendolyn Kiste

cover of Reluctant ImmortalsReluctant Immortals by Gwendolyn Kiste
Gallery/Saga Press (August 2022)
320 pages; $17.99 paperback; $13.99 e-book
Reviewed by Dave Simms

This was unexpected. Then again, for those who have ever been treated to one of Kiste’s works, the unexpected is part of the gift she gives to her readers. Gorgeous prose wrapped around the darkest reaches of the human condition in plots that are anything but overdone.Continue Reading

Review: Mary: An Awakening of Terror by Nat Cassidy

cover of Mary: An Awakening in TerrorMary: An Awakening of Terror by Nat Cassidy 
Tor Nightfire (July 2022) 
416 pages; $19.79 paperback; $12.99 ebook
Reviewed by Haley Newlin

Nat Cassidy’s Mary: An Awakening of Terror opens with one of the most genuine author’s notes I’ve ever read. Cassidy details a close relationship with his mother, who, like many of us, was a Stephen King fan. Upon seeing the film poster of De Palma’s 1976 film adaptation of Carrie, starring Sissy Spacek, Cassidy was “messed up bad.” Continue Reading

Review: Leech by Hiron Ennes

cover of LeechLeech by Hiron Ennes
Tordotcom (September 27, 2022)
336 Pages; $27.99 hardcover; $14.99 e-book
Reviewed by Damon Smith

While packed full of interesting prose and well thought-out worldbuilding, Hiron Ennes’ Leech is easily one of the more frustrating books I’ve read this year. From beginning to end, the experience is uneven, with the “slow burn” of the quieter moments beginning to drag the quality of the overall story down. It is a book full of potential, which makes its lack of impact all the more disappointing.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

Review: Dreams Factory by Jérôme Hamon and Suheb Zako

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cover of Dreams Factory

Dreams Factory written by Jérôme Hamon, art by Suheb Zako
Magnetic Press (September 13, 2022)
136 pages; $24.99 hardcover
Reviewed by Joshua Gage

 Following his studies at an American university and at business school, French author Jérôme Hamon began his professional life in New York as a financial analyst. Convinced that the life he wanted was elsewhere, he left the field two years later to travel around the world. Back in France, Hamon strung together a number of jobs in the movies, video games, and television. In parallel, he began to write his first comic book and graphic novel scripts. In 2008, Hamon went to Angouleme to present his first completed scripts, and it was there that he met artist Marc Van Straceele. The two would go on to collaborate on Yokozuna, a graphic novel on sumo wrestling in Japan (Kana, 2013). Following that, Hamon worked with artist Antoine Carrion on Nils, a saga halfway between Nordic mythology and the works of Miyazaki (Soleil, 2016). His newest graphic novel, in collaboration with freelance artist Suheb Zako, is Dreams Factory, a dark steampunk tale about mines, kidnapped children, and mechanical beasts.Continue Reading

Review: Suburban Hell by Maureen Kilmer

cover of Suburban HellSuburban Hell by Maureen Kilmer
G.P. Putnam Sons (August 2022) 
336 pages; $15.30; $11.99 ebook
Reviewed by Haley Newlin

What’s a little demonic exorcism among friends?

Things are pretty good in a small Chicago suburb. The kids play together, parents help one another watch the kids, and the neighbors constantly hold potlucks and holiday cookouts.

Four friends, Amy, Liz, Jess, and Melissa, hold wine nights to break away from the pretentious PTA crowd and their long stories of kitchen renovations. Liz, the softie of the group, and the most “together” hostess, suggests the crew build a “She Shed.” Ever the go-getter, Liz begins construction immediately, and the women “christen” the site with pinot and chardonnay, unknowingly disturbing a restless entity.

And then the nightmare ensues. Continue Reading

Bev Vincent explores Fairy Tale by Stephen King

Stephen King News From the Dead Zone

“There are other worlds than these”

Traditionally, in stories modeled after the Hero’s Journey, the main character receives a call to action, which he or she initially resists. Take, for example, Bilbo Baggins, who is cajoled out of his comfortable, quiet life to go on an adventure by Gandalf. In Stephen King’s fantasy stories, the characters are self-motivated. No one has to urge Jack Sawyer to light out for the Territories—he has a good reason to embark on a perilous journey. Similarly, Roland Deschain chooses his mission to find and save the Dark Tower, even though it will take him on a wild journey for the rest of his natural days. No one conscripts him. (Although, to be fair, sometimes his characters are yanked into a quest without being given any choice in the matter.)

In Fairy Tale, Charlie McGee[1] Reade also decides for himself to go on a magical adventure although, when he sets out, he has no idea what dangers he will face and what will be asked of him while he attempts to achieve his goal.

Continue Reading

Review: Artemis Made Me Do It by Trista Mateer

cover of Artemis Made Me Do ItArtemis Made Me Do It by Trista Mateer
Central Avenue Publishing (September 6, 2022)
184 pages; $16.99 paperback
Reviewed by Joshua Gage

Trista Mateer is the award-winning and bestselling author of multiple poetry collections, including the feminist greek mythology retelling, Aphrodite Made Me Do It. Mateer is a passionate mental health advocate, currently writing in South Carolina. Her newest collection is titled Artemis Made Me Do It.Continue Reading

Review: He Who Fights with Monsters by Francesco Artibani and Werther Dell’Edera

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cover of He Who Fights With MonstersHe Who Fights with Monsters by Francesco Artibani and Werther Dell’Edera
Ablaze (August 30, 2022)
144 pages; $24.99 hardcover
Reviewed by Joshua Gage

Francesco Artibani has long worked for the Walt Disney Company Italia, where he writes many tales for Topolino, PK, and W.I.T.C.H., of which he’s been a scriptwriter and story editor for three years, and has created the science fiction series Kylion. Werther Dell’Edera is an Italian comic book artist who provided interior art for the unreleased comic Aliens: Colonial Marines – Rising Threat for Dark Horse Comics, as well as Marvel Comics, and BOOM! Studios hit Something is Killing the Children. Their newest collaboration is the WWII graphic novel He Who Fights With MonstersContinue Reading

Review: Daisy Darker by Alice Feeney

cover of Daisy DarkerDaisy Darker by Alice Feeney
Flatiron Books (August 30, 2022)
352 pages; $23.99 hardcover; $14.99 e-book
Reviewed by Blu Gilliand

They call Alice Feeney “The Queen of Twists.” It’s an apt title — Daisy Darker‘s revelations come at nearly a twist-a-chapter clip — but don’t let it fool you into thinking Feeney’s work is all about the gimmick. Her latest novel stands strong on its characters and setting; the constant game-changing revelations are the icing on an already delicious cake.Continue Reading

Review: Deserter by Junji Ito

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cover of Deserter by Junji Ito

Deserter by Junji Ito
VIZ Media (December 2021)
392 pages; $18.99 hardcover, $11.99 ebook
Reviewed by Danica Davidson

Deserter is a short story collection by Junji Ito, one of Japan’s most famous and successful horror manga creators. While you can see how he’s improved over time, the essence of his horror work is still here, and this is still definitely a worthy read.Continue Reading

Review: Over My Dead Body by Sweeney Boo

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cover of Over My Dead BodyOver My Dead Body by Sweeney Boo
HarperAlley (August 30, 2022)
240 pages; $24.99 hardcover
Reviewed by Joshua Gage

Sweeney Boo is a comic artist and illustrator living in Montreal, Canada.

When she’s not busy drawing witchy girls and hairless cats, she works with various publishers including BOOM! Studios, Archie Comics, IDW, Marvel, Image Comics and DC Comics. She is also the author and illustrator of graphic novel Eat, & Love Yourself. Her newest graphic novel is Over My Dead Body.Continue Reading

Review: Dirt Creek by Hayley Scrivenor

cover of Dirt CreekDirt Creek by Hayley Scrivenor
Flatiron Books (August 2022)
336 pages; $25.19 hardcover; $9.99 e-book
Reviewed by Blu Gilliand

On page three of Hayley Scrivenor’s excellent Dirt Creek, the body of 12-year-old Esther Bianchi is exhumed from a shallow grave. From there we journey back a few days and watch as her disappearance, and the subsequent investigation into it, causes ripples through a small Australian town.

I know small towns, because I’ve lived in them my whole life. Scrivenor may be writing about Australia and I may be living in Alabama, but location is the only difference between her rural and my rural. If you’ve never lived in a small town, Hayley sums up the experience perfectly with one sentence:

Everything and everyone touching everything else.

I about shouted “Hallelujuah!” when I read that, because it’s so true. That line comes near the end of the book, and rang so true after having spent several days in Scrivenor’s creation, watching how the characters’ lives and decisions wind around each other in an ever-tightening noose of comfort and danger.

Scrivenor tells her story through a variety of characters, including poor Esther’s parents, her friends Ronnie and Lewis, the detective struggling to learn the town and find the killer (all while dealing with a recent loss of her own), and finally with a collective voice — a “We” — employed to give the perspective of the community as a whole. These are people you will suspect, pity, grow frustrated with and weep with. These characters are the lifeblood of the town and the lifeblood of this story.

Esther’s death is a tragedy, but it’s far from the only one this town suffers in a matter of hours and days. Scrivenor makes you feel each one, makes you wallow in the waves of hope and despair, forces you to feel the impact of Esther’s death. Thankfully, we also get glimpses of the impact Esther’s life had on those around her. She is a small but necessary light in this otherwise grim tale.

I can’t wait to see what Hayley Scrivenor does next. Dirt Creek is highly recommended.