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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
Because it is.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Children 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.”
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.
Beware! Paul Tremblay is not interested in writing stories readers can walk away from unscathed. Survivor Song will leave emotional trenches in your heart long after you’ve finished trying to ugly-cry and read at the same time.