Review: Spungunion by John Boden

Spungunion by John Boden
Fungasm Press (January 15, 2020)
106 pages: $9.95 paperback
Reviewed by Sadie “Mother Horror” Hartmann

Once every blue moon, a reader will encounter an author who possesses a storytelling style that works for them every damn time. I have a few of these authors. Let’s call them the “Do-No-Wrongs.”

John Boden is a “Do-No-Wrong.”Continue Reading

Review: Various States of Decay by Matt Hayward

Various States of Decay by Matt Hayward
Poltergeist Press (December 2019)
290 pages: $23.70 hardcover; $14.99 paperback; $2.99 e-book
Reviewed by Sadie “Mother Horror” Hartmann

It comes as a surprise to me that Matt Hayward published his first book, Brain Dead Blues, just over two years ago in May of 2017. Since that release, he’s been nominated for Bram Stoker Awards, published two novels, and co-wrote two novels. Various States of Decay is his second short story collection. That’s an impressive two years worth of work!Continue Reading

Review: Trouble at Camp Still Waters by Eddie Generous

Trouble at Camp Still Waters by Eddie Generous
Severed Press (July 2019)
134 pages: $9.99 paperback; $2.99 e-book
Reviewed by Sadie “Mother Horror” Hartmann

Ben Ray Collins is a serial killer fanboy who gets caught trying to execute a copycat murder. By some stroke of luck, he manages to escape prison and finds himself at Camp Still Waters, but the waters are anything but still. Some kind of natural phenomenon is happening there and a team of scientists head out to learn more.Continue Reading

Review: Ghoster by Jason Arnopp

Ghoster by Jason Arnopp
Orbit (October 2019)

496 pages; $12.50 paperback; $9.99 e-book
Reviewed by Sadie “Mother Horror” Hartmann

I think it’s important to tell readers straight away that Jason Arnopp writes modern horror stories like nobody else in this industry. His books are written for horror lovers alive today, in this cultural moment. Ghoster is for me, you and us—right here, right now.Continue Reading

Review: Everything is Beautiful and Nothing Bad Can Ever Happen Here by Michael Wehunt

Everything is Beautiful and Nothing Bad Can Ever Happen Here by Michael Wehunt
Nightscape Press (September 2019)

78 pages; $30 paperback
Reviewed by Sadie “Mother Horror” Hartmann

Late at night, in the comfort of my cozy bed with my husband slightly snoring next to me, I read stories about werewolves, monsters or bad things happening to people when they’re camping. I can rest easy before sleep knowing I can leave all those made-up nightmares in the pages of the books on my nightstand (I don’t camp or go outdoors so, no real threat there). Continue Reading

Review: The Fearing, Book Four: Earth & Ember by John F.D. Taff

The Fearing, Book Four: Earth & Ember by John F.D. Taff
Grey Matter Press (November 2019)
170 pages: $9.99 paperback; $3.99 e-book
Reviewed by Sadie “Mother Horror” Hartmann

I like horror that fires on all cylinders, as I’ve said countless times in interviews. I want my horror to unnerve and disturb me, yes. But I also want it to make me feel love and sadness and regret and anger, too. And I want my characters to have some shot at redemption at the end, Some glimmer of hope, even if it’s obscured. —John F. D. Taff/Earth & Ember

Book four of John Taff’s epic apocalyptic series The Fearing is, sadly, the conclusion to one of the most interactive reading experiences I’ve had since Stephen King’s The Dark Tower.Continue Reading

Review: Teeth by Kelli Owen

Teeth by Kelli Owen
CreateSpace (June 2018)

248 pages; $12.99 paperback; $4.99 e-book
Reviewed by Sadie “Mother Horror” Hartmann

Sometimes I feel like a treasure hunter when I pick up a new book. I hold it in my hands and I think, “Will this book be a bright, shiny gem?” I get excited about the prospect of discovering something new and precious.

I think Teeth by Kelli Owen is such a treasure; a true gem in vampire fiction. Continue Reading

Review: A Place for Sinners by Aaron Dries

Cover of A Place for Sinners by Aaron DriesA Place for Sinners by Aaron Dries
Poltergeist Press (July 2019)

394 pages; $21.95 hardcover; $14.56 paperback; $5.39 e-book
Reviewed by Sadie “Mother Horror” Hartmann

Sometimes, in the genre of horror, a reviewer stumbles upon a dark, glistening vein in the granite of horror. Maybe the reviewer reads a book from a specific indie press and enjoys it so much, they find themselves reading other books they have to offer. Or maybe the reviewer finds an author and they run in a circle of like-minded authors who do collaborative work—so the reviewer finds not just one new favorite author, but several!

I found Aaron Dries in one of the aforementioned dark veins in the granite. Being the excitable and curious reader that I am, I bought myself some of his books. A Place for Sinners entices you with an intriguing premise; boiled down it amounts to the simplest of tropes: A traveling experience to the jungles of Thailand goes terribly wrong.Continue Reading

Review: The Pale White by Chad Lutzke

Cover of The Pale White by Chad LutzkeThe Pale White by Chad Lutzke
Crystal Lake Publishing (September 2019)

118 pages; $10.99 paperback; $3.99 e-book
Reviewed by Sadie “Mother Horror” Hartmann

On matters of horror fiction and what should or should not be defined as such, nobody gets the last word. For some people, a horror story is only as good as its ability to scare. For me, the horror genre is a spectrum, and feeling scared falls somewhere on that emotional spectrum along with a host of other feelings. Judging a book based on its ability to belong in a genre, employing the sole criteria of fear, is too subjective and limiting in my opinion.Continue Reading

Review: The Fearing, Book Three: Air & Dust by John F.D. Taff

Cover of The Fearing Book Three Air and Dust by John F. D. TaffThe Fearing, Book Three: Air & Dust by John F.D. Taff
Grey Matter Press (October 2019)

320 pages; $9.99 paperback; $3.99 e-book
Reviewed by Sadie “Mother Horror” Hartmann

It’s hard to believe that we’re here. We’ve arrived at Book Three in The Fearing series by John F. D. Taff. There’s only one left! I freely admit, this makes me a little sad. I’m also wondering, is there anyone out there that hasn’t heard of this series? I’ll pretend for a moment that if you’re reading this review, you know nothing about it and this will make me excited to convince you of its epic awesomeness.Continue Reading

Review: Grind Your Bones to Dust by Nicholas Day

Grind Your Bones to DustGrind Your Bones to Dust by Nicholas Day
Excession Press (October 10, 2019)

212 pages; $14.99 paperback; $6.95 e-book
Reviewed by Sadie “Mother Horror” Hartmann

“Somewhere out there is a true and living prophet of destruction and I dont want to confront him. I know he’s real. I have seen his work.” No Country for Old Men, Cormac McCarthy

Sometimes the right story, told by the right author, finds itself in your hands at just the right time. I received Grind Your Bones to Dust by Nicholas Day as a printed manuscript, three hole punched, brad at the top and the bottom holding the many pages together. It felt special when I held it.

Flipping through, I saw illustrations; striking, intentionally scribbly illustrations of man and beast.

I already knew from reading Nick’s short story collection, Nobody Gets Hurt and Other Lies, what I should expect from his first novel:

The unexpected.

As I devoured this book, I had the distinct feeling that every single word was chosen with meticulous care and concern; no words were added flippantly, wastefully or without great intention. This kind of mindfulness from the author has a mesmerizing effect on me as a reader. This book is so compelling and gripping, my very life was suspended and held in tension until I finished.

Told in four parts, the first three parts are told almost as isolated events. There are small connective threads of familiarity, either with characters or the storyline, woven through so that you know that at some point everything is going to come together and it will be epic. That apex moment of all the points of light intersecting is in part four. The brilliance of it all is breathtaking; literally, the most masterful climax and conclusion. I have never read its equal.

It would be utter ruin if I were to overshare any of this book’s unique storyline. Part One starts right off with the protagonist, Louis Loving, fleeing a strange horror in the middle of the night. You have never encountered predators such as these in all your horror journeys.

Part Two features a villain so unfathomably evil…I could say with confidence that James Hayte is the single most wicked character to ever terrify me in literature. Second only to Cormac McCarty’s the Judge in Blood Meridian. There are murderous deeds committed you will never want to read again, and Nicholas Day writes them in such a way that you are unlikely to ever forget a single one. Part of me wishes I could scrub them from my mind and part of me wants to applaud Day for being the kind of author who absolutely knows how to write exceptionally memorable acts of violence. He understands that sometimes full detail is not required to project a horrifying act into a reader’s mind. Things can be suggested with just the right words, and it’s more unsettling than full disclosure could ever be.

One of my favorite characters is Billings, a supernatural raven who speaks in these prophetic parables and mysteries. Billings and James somehow find each other and the two of them together are some of my favorite storytelling moments.

Part Three is the introduction of some important characters who are going to lead us back to Part One. This portion of the story provides the reader with some of the best dialog I’ve ever read. Truly some profound words are exchanged and I found myself wanting to either commit everything to memory or furiously scribble down notes, so I did both. It’s in Part Three that I read one of the scariest horror fiction moments I’ve read to this day. It reads like an intense scene in some indie horror movie that is talked about for generations. Once you read it, you’ll know—that’s the scene Sadie was talking about. Like already said, Part Four is Nicholas Day showing us what he’s made of.

He writes like a man possessed, as if the very story you’re reading has somehow taken over Day’s being and poured itself out onto the page. I don’t know if Nicholas Day sold his soul at a crossroads to bring us Grind Your Bones to Dust, but this book feels like the result of a pact made with the Devil to bring us the finest horror has to offer. I’m thankful this is his first novel, because it is this reader’s opinion it will propel him farther out into the industry and we can plan to enjoy many more novels from him. I’ll be standing in line.

Interview: Nicholas Day talks the GRIND

Author Nick Day
Author Nicholas Day

Nicholas Day is a science fiction, horror, and crime fiction writer, and is the co-owner (with fellow writer Don Noble) of Rooster Republic Press. His first novel, Grind Your Bones to Dust, will be released on October 10. Recently, Day sat down with Cemetery Dance’s own “Mother Horror” for a chat about creativity, wild donkeys, and a whole lot more.
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Review: A Lush and Seething Hell by John Hornor Jacobs

A Lush and Seething Hell by John Hornor Jacobs
Harper Voyager (October 8, 2019)

384 pages; $19.99 hardcover; $12.99 e-book
Reviewed by Sadie “Mother Horror” Hartmann

The cover of A Lush and Seething Hell depicts two figures standing in some brambles; a darkness looms behind them, above them, all around them. It’s a menacing tower of darkness bearing down, but also rising up. Upon closer inspection, the figures aren’t so much standing as they are cowering.

I know because I stared at the cover and the title for awhile before I ventured past it to get at the meaty insides. And it’s that posture of cowering I remembered after I finished this book. Continue Reading

Review: Violet by Scott Thomas

Book Cover for VioletViolet by Scott Thomas
InkShares (September 24, 2019)

446 pages; $17.99 paperback; $7.99 e-book
Reviewed by Sadie Hartmann

Did Scott Thomas peek inside our horror-loving brains while we weren’t looking and use what he found there to write the most appealing book just for us? He might have. In fact, the more I sit here with all my review notes, the more I’m convinced he overheard us talking about all our favorite things to read about and he used ALL OF THEM in this one book: Violet. Continue Reading

Review: The Fearing Book Two: Water & Wind by John F.D. Taff

Book cover for The Fearing Book Two: Water and WindThe Fearing, Book Two: Water & Wind by John F.D. Taff
Grey Matter Press (August 20, 2019)

130 pages; $3.99 e-book
Reviewed by Sadie Hartmann

The Fearing is an epic, apocalyptic horror story by “King of Pain” John F. D. Taff,  told over the course of multiple, individual book installments published by Grey Matter Press. Book One is titled Fire & Rain, which I reviewed for Cemetery Dance in June. Here’s a quote from the review:

And this is where Taff is a damn genius. He proves time and time again that in just a few pages, in just one scene, he can manipulate the feelings of his readers and make us care about these people on the page like THAT *snaps fingers*.

Continue Reading