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

Review: Survivor Song by Paul Tremblay

cover of Survivor Song by Paul TremblaySurvivor Song by Paul Tremblay
William Morrow (July 2020)

320 pages; $25.19 hardcover; $14.99 e-book
Reviewed by Sadie “Mother Horror” Hartmann

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.Continue Reading

Review: Blacktop Wasteland by S.A. Cosby

cover of Blacktop Wasteland by S.A. CosbyBlacktop Wasteland by S.A. Cosby
Flatiron Books (July 14, 2020)

320 pages; $26.99 paperback; $13.99 e-book
Reviewed by Sadie “Mother Horror” Hartmann

Money can’t fix it and love can’t tame it. Push it down deep and it rots you from the inside out.

Blacktop Wasteland features a familiar crime noir trope: A man formally connected to a life of crime is trying to live an honest life and raise a family. When times get tough, he returns to what he knows he’s good at to turn a sizable profit, hoping this will be a one-and-done job. He might think he can leave the life but the life doesn’t want to let go.

We know this story, right?

But you don’t know this story. 

Immediately upon starting this book, I recognized the telltale signs of a character-driven story for the sake of emotional investment. 

I’m an emotional reader. 

I approach my reads with my heart on my sleeve and a willingness to surrender it easily. This book made it clear, right away, I was signing up to have my feelings wrecked and I wasn’t angry about it. I was ready, eagerly anticipating the journey to destruction.

The first neon sign was the main protagonist, Beauregard “Bug” Montage. I like Bug. He’s street smart and savvy. He’s been with his wife since they were kids and now they have kids of their own; a dedicated family man with a solid work ethic but with this wise-ass, “take-no-shit” persona as a remnant from his previous lifestyle.

S.A. Cosby does an excellent job bringing the reader into Bug’s day-to-day schedule and pulling back the curtain on his personal life so that we can share in his intimate relationships with his mama, his wife, and kids and his extended family and friends.

There’s also some seriously developed backstory as Cosby deals with themes of generational addictions: fathers passing on their self-destructive behaviors to their sons and so on and so on. 

Like all good crime noir dramas, the stage is set for conflict.

There’s no right or wrong here. There is only gray area as readers are forced to ask themselves, what would you do if you were forced to choose between a rock and a hard place? Thankfully, Bug is a complex, fully-fleshed out individual who makes some decisions that readers will choose to agree or disagree with; either way, you want Bug to be successful, which is a true sign of the author’s authenticity to the human condition.

The narrative goes from zero to sixty. It is exhilarating and nerve wracking.

Did the author deliver on the emotional wreckage I assumed was coming for me? Yes. Was it what I expected? No. This story is full of ups and downs, highs and lows, victories, and losses. It’s one of those crime dramas that leaves a lasting impact on your mood much like a Dennis Lehane or James Ellroy novel. I carried around a heaviness in my heart for quite some time after I turned the last page.

I recommend this book for those who are looking to read  adrenaline-pumping heist stories, intense car chases (some of the best driving scenes since I watched the movie Drive), good guys that act like bad guys and bad guys with heart, Black authors telling their own stories and just a damn good story told by a damn good writer.

Review: The Neon Owl (Book I): When the Shit Hits the Van by Chad Lutzke

cover of The Neon Owl by Chad LutzkeThe Neon Owl (Book I): When the Shit Hits the Van by Chad Lutzke
Independently Published (January 2020)

168 pages; $8.99 paperback; $2.99 e-book
Reviewed by Sadie Hartmann

Showing up for a Chad Lutzke story is a resignation of emotional preservation. You come to engage with the words on the page with your heart fully exposed and a willingness to let Lutzke do as he wishes. More often than not, the book will end on a note that breaks your heartstrings and leaves the reader with a nasty bookish hangover.

The Neon Owl is a bit of a departure from the usual agreement and I loved it! This story manages to put a big grin on your face instead of streaking your cheeks with tears and I’m not mad about it.Continue Reading

Review: The Lost Memories of Freddy Frehling by James Newman

cover of The Lost Memories of Freddy FrehlingThe Lost Memories of Freddy Frehling by James Newman
In Your Face Books (January 2020)

32 pages; $0.99 e-book
Reviewed by Sadie “Mother Horror”Hartmann

It’s tricky to review a short story of just thirty-two pages. My primary objectives here are to make readers aware of this title, and to praise the work of James Newman.

The Lost Memories of Freddy Frehling is a story about the feelings adult children have for their parents. Continue Reading

Review: White Pines by Gemma Amor

cover of White Pines by Gemma AmorWhite Pines by Gemma Amor
Independently Published (March 2020)

442 pages; $16 paperback; $3 e-book
Reviewed by Sadie Hartmann

I like that the synopsis of White Pines is short and ambiguous. I’d like to leave it that way. I’m going to do my best to share my reading experience without disclosing important plot details in order to protect “reader discovery.”Continue Reading

Review: These Evil Things We Do by Mick Garris

cover of these evil things we do by mick garrisThese Evil Things We Do by Mick Garris
Fangoria/Cinestate (May 2020)

$9.99 e-book
Reviewed by Sadie Hartmann

I’m going to go with total honesty and transparency by revealing that I didn’t know who Mick Garris even was when I accepted the review copy from the team at Cinestate/FANGORIA. I just read whatever they give me because it’s always entertaining; if not amazing.

After finishing the first three stories of These Evil Things We Do and feeling totally blown away by how much I had enjoyed them, I decided to look this Mick Garris guy up on Google.


Mick Garris is kind of a big deal.Continue Reading

Review: The Ancestor by Danielle Trussoni

The Ancestor by Danielle Trussoni
William Morrow (April 2020)

368 pages; $19.61 hardcover; $14.99 e-book
Reviewed by Sadie Hartmann

I have never wanted to live in the pages of a horror novel as much as I did while reading The Ancestor. Alberta Montebianco lives a stressful, emotionally complicated lifestyle in New York. With almost magical timing, a letter shows up addressed to her but with a new title in front of her name— “Countess.” As it turns out, Alberta discovers that she is possibly the sole, living heir to a noble title, and a castle in Turin, Italy.Continue Reading

Review: The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones

The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones
Gallery/Saga Press (July 14, 2020)
320 pages: $20.63 hardcover; $12.99 e-book
Reviewed by Sadie “Mother Horror” Hartmann

I read an interview with Stephen Graham Jones where he said, I just figure I am Blackfeet, so every story I tell’s going to be Blackfeet.” (Uncanny Magazine/Julia Rios)

This one, simple statement is manifested in SGJ’s body of work; each book wildly different from the last, but distinctly identifiable as his own because they bear his fingerprints, unique storytelling voice and personal context.Continue Reading

Review: The Girl in the Video by Michael David Wilson

cover of The Girl in the VideoThe Girl in the Video by Michael David Wilson
Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing (April 28, 2020)

106 pages; $12.95 paperback; $3.99 e-book
Reviewed by Sadie “Mother Horror” Hartmann

We all know Michael David Wilson from the infamous podcast, This is Horror. Michael is the one with the exceptionally wonderful British accent. If you haven’t listened to an episode, question what it is about your life that needs assistance and then at least start listening to This is Horror on a regular basis. It’s a great way to get your life back on track.

The Girl in the Video is Wilson’s first published book of any kind and I know exactly why Max Booth III picked it up for Perpetual Motion Machine…Continue Reading

Review: The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix

The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix
Quirk Books (April 7, 2020)

408 pages; $15.29 paperback; $13.99 e-book
Reviewed by Sadie “Mother Horror” Hartmann

You might be a horror book consumer like me and have already bought into the Grady Hendrix brand. You come for the unique titles and clever packaging (My Best Friend’s Exorcism) but you stay for the alluring storytelling, memorable characters, and iconic cultural references.Continue Reading

Review: Whispers in the Ear of a Dreaming Ape by Joshua Chaplinsky

Whispers in the Ear of a Dreaming Ape by Joshua Chaplinsky
CLASH Books (October 2019)

185 pages; $13.95 paperback; $3.99 e-book
Reviewed by Sadie “Mother Horror” Hartmann

It’s this reader’s opinion that short story collections are the best way to read a new author. It’s the quickest way to discover an author’s versatility; each story an opportunity to showcase a variety of unique skills without being locked into one narrative.

I also believe that a reader begins their relationship with a book with the cover. In this case, primate skulls in bold, appealing colors with a recognizable Matthew Revert style. A real winner for me. A cover-buy.Continue Reading

Till the Score is Paid by Gemma Amor

cover of Till the Score is Paid by Gemma AmorTill the Score is Paid by Gemma Amor
Giles Press (December 2019)

254 pages; $12.99 paperback; $3.99 e-book
Reviewed by Sadie “Mother Horror” Hartmann

Some authors have a storytelling voice that feels familiar to the reader. I often say that these authors’ books are like coming home after wearing formal clothes all day, and then putting on your favorite pajamas; the definition of comfort.

Gemma Amor’s writing style “fits me.” We are a perfect reader/author match. The minute I start reading one of her short stories I am immediately drawn in and compelled to finish. It’s difficult for me to put any story of her’s down until I’m done.Continue Reading

Women in Horror Month Interview: Becky Spratford

Becky Spratford, MLIS

Becky Spratford is an informed and passionate advocate of fiction (particularly horror fiction). She trains librarians to match readers with books they’ll enjoy — an amazingly important job, if you ask us! Becky maintains a magical presence on Twitter and a blog that gives great insight into the importance of the work she does.

We’re proud to feature Becky in this special Women in Horror Month interview.Continue Reading

Women in Horror Month Interview: Ania Ahlborn

Author and interview subject Ania Ahlborn
Ania Ahlborn

February is Women in Horror Month and I wanted to check in with some of my favorite writers of horror fiction. Ania Ahlborn is the author of several creepy books of which I would recommend, starting with Brother, and then working through her extensive back catalog. Her most recent release, If You See Her, is about buried mysteries, haunted houses, and the ghosts of past sins coming back to haunt you.

Ania and her husband, Will, have a toddler we will refer to as “R” in this interview. I wanted to find out how Ania has been balancing her writing career and motherhood. Continue Reading