Showing posts with label horror. Show all posts
Showing posts with label horror. Show all posts

Monday, July 10, 2023

Review: The Militia House by John Milas


The Militia House by John Milas
Henry Holt and Co. 
Publication Date: July 11th, 2023
Hardcover. 272 pages.

About The Militia House:

"Stephen King meets Tim O’Brien in John Milas’s The Militia House, a spine-tingling and boldly original gothic horror novel. It’s 2010, and the recently promoted Corporal Loyette and his unit are finishing up their deployment at a new base in Kajaki, Afghanistan. Their duties here are straightforward―loading and unloading cargo into and out of helicopters―and their days are a mix of boredom and dread. The Brits they’re replacing delight in telling them the history of the old barracks just off base, a Soviet-era militia house they claim is haunted, and Loyette and his men don’t need much convincing to make a clandestine trip outside the wire to explore it.

It’s a short, middle-of-the-day adventure, but the men experience a mounting agitation after their visit to the militia house. In the days that follow they try to forget about the strange, unsettling sights and sounds from the house, but things are increasingly . . . not right. Loyette becomes determined to ignore his and his marines’ growing unease, convinced that it’s just the strain of war playing tricks on them. But something about the militia house will not let them go.

Meticulously plotted and viscerally immediate in its telling, The Militia House is a gripping and brilliant exploration of the unceasing horrors of war that’s no more easily shaken than the militia house itself.

The Militia House is the perfect quiet, creeping horror to fill your long summer days. It is John Milas’ debut horror novel and is set in Kajaki, Afghanistan in 2010 during the war. I listened to the audiobook version of The Militia House and absolutely devoured it–this is sure to be a book that I will continue to think about and possibly re-read for many years.

We follow Corporel Loyette as he and his unit are moved to a new base in Afghanistan where a British unit has already been stationed. Loyette is unsettled by a few odd occurrences he notices around base, but thinks nothing of it outside of his mind playing tricks on him. However, Loyette and his unit are soon informed by the British unit of an abandoned militia house nearby that was the site of a violence battle and is now believed to be haunted.

Since Loyette and his unit are sufficiently bored on base, they manage to plan a visit to the site, where they have a deeply unnerving experience that they op to ignore and not talk about with anyone else once they make it safely back to base. Unfortunately, things don’t go right back to normal as each individual person seems to begin having uniquely odd experiences that begin to put strains on the group as they attempt to maintain an existence in this war-torn area where all they have is themselves and one another.

Milas does an excellent job at conveying the monotonous reality of living on base in Afghanistan and the many different ways in which it can begin to affect each person’s mental wellbeing. At the same time, Milas also does an excellent job at exploring the psychological aspects of being at war, including PTSD, difficulties adapting to civilian life, and how the aforementioned monotony can create varying levels of uncertainty among a unit.

While The Militia House is military horror and there are many war experiences mentioned, there is not much of an emphasis on military action itself in the present, which for me worked well on keeping the attention focused on Loyette and some of the more psychological components of the story. I really appreciated Milas’ exploration of war and introspection concerning the moral and ethics surrounding war and the soldiers’ experiences.

The Militia House is not a horror story that really throws things in your face and focuses on gore and shock value, but rather one that focuses on the slow burn build up of unease and a sense of haunting that slowly builds into a crescendo that truly echoes long after the last page is closed. It is incredibly disquieting is the type of book that is full of images and ideas that are sure to stick around in your head for far longer than you’d like them to.

Milas has a writing style that is both simple and complex in how he crafts his ideas and subsequently conveys them in ways that left me riveted to every word. There is a perfect blend of detail and description mixed in with just enough left unsaid to really impart a sense of terror at the unknown. I will also warn you that this is a story that falls into more of the open ending territory, and I think this was the perfect choice for Milas to end his story with. It probably won't be for everyone–in fact, I'm sure some people will probably end up quite frustrated–but I thought it was the perfect ending to match this atmospheric tale of creeping horror. 

Overall, I’ve given The Militia House five stars! This is a stunningly written work of military horror that filled me with dread until the very last page (and honestly still does) and I genuinely cannot wait to see what’s next from Milas.

*I received a copy of The Militia House courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

Buy the book: Amazon |

Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Review: Maeve Fly by C.J. Leede


Maeve Fly by C.J. Leede
Publication Date: June 6th, 2023
Hardcover. 288 pages.

About Maeve Fly:

"By day, Maeve Fly works at the happiest place in the world as every child’s favorite ice princess.

By the neon night glow of the Sunset Strip, Maeve haunts the dive bars with a drink in one hand and a book in the other, imitating her misanthropic literary heroes.

But when Gideon Green - her best friend’s brother - moves to town, he awakens something dangerous within her, and the world she knows suddenly shifts beneath her feet.

Untethered, Maeve ditches her discontented act and tries on a new persona. A bolder, bloodier one, inspired by the pages of American Psycho. Step aside Patrick Bateman, it’s Maeve’s turn with the knife."

Maeve Fly is not for the fainthearted, and I really mean that. Stephen Graham Jones blurbed this as "gory and brutal and beautiful and painful and terrifying and a pure delight," and I couldn't agree more with that. This is horror that is centered around its characters, but that does not mean it is without plenty of gore, violence, and other things that the squeamish would probably prefer to avoid. There is a relentlessness to the sex and violence portrayed in this book and the perverse nature of it is certainly not going to be for everyone. That being said, if you are able to stick with it, it's going to be one ride that you are not going to be forgetting any time soon, and I would even go as far to say that you'll end up as riveted by it as I was.

Maeve Fly follows Maeve, a somewhat unsympathetic character who has recently moved in with her grandmother in Los Angeles and works as a meet-and-greet princess at a popular theme park nearby (yes, it's most likely what you're thinking of) with her fellow princess friend, Kate. There's not all that much in the way of hard plot going on outside of following Maeve in her new life and observing her adaptation, exploration, and descent of her own life, but it is this character exploration that really carries the story. Her grandmother is currently on her deathbed, unresponsive due to a recent medical event, and as Maeve struggles to come to terms with this development she instead spends her time at work and partaking in a variety of unique (and, uh, slightly concerning?) personal activities. Maeve cares deeply for Kate, and soon develops much stronger feelings for a man named Gideon who shows up in her life as well, which leads her down some difficult paths as she tries to make sense of her feelings. 

Maeve has a penchant for what most people would describe as 'dark things,' and this is hallmarked by her love for Halloween and Halloween music (which I'll agree is pretty fun), among other things. Maeve has a difficult personality to connect with and a somewhat stilted worldview, which makes her a fascinating character who brings something new to the table. She is very much someone who seems to be attempting to find herself and sort of throws herself into a variety of different things to do so, many of which are very questionable and seem to her left her with a somewhat misanthropic worldview at times, and she almost seems to treat the entire world as her own experiment (some of her free time is spent attempting to get random people 'cancelled' online and to ruin their lives, for example). I found Maeve absolutely fascinating, and I was so impressed by how well C.J. Leede was able to craft her narrative voice. She has an incredibly strong voice that I found utterly compelling, and as I listened to the audiobook I found myself nearly on the edge of my seating just waiting to hear what our protagonist would say next.

As mentioned, Maeve Fly takes place largely in LA and surrounding areas, and I really think Leede captured aspects of it incredibly well. I saw one blurb describe this as "a blood-soaked love letter to Los Angeles," and that's exactly what it is. It's hard to describe, but it almost felt as though as it was a bit of a blend of satire, commentary, honestly, and a hint of fantasy in its tone when describing LA. I grew up in the greater LA areas and currently live in the middle of LA and I found myself utterly entertained by Maeve's consistent narration of the city and its people. She really hits the nail on the head at times while also maintaining an extra layer of almost stereotypical perceptions that I think made this that much more fun.

The atmosphere is deliciously dark, at times almost nihilistic, and has a strong sense of morbid curiosity that is present throughout the entire story. Maeve Fly is a hard book to nail down succinctly, but I would say the tone often alternately shifts between being rather manic and unhinged and being contemplative and reflective. I loved the morbidity in this book and how Maeve (and therefore author) didn't really seem to find any topic off limits. Maeve wasn't afraid to try out the darkest and most unhinged thoughts that crossed her mind, and she explored the depths of depravity to her heart's content. Although this is not behavior that should be replicated, of course, I found a strange sense of awe watching her navigate her current life. 

This is a book that really draws on the idea of a gradual descent from dark longings and occasional questionable missteps to what eventually become sudden shifts from sanity to absurdity. It's that idea of having dark thoughts, tentatively acting some out, then one big things happens out of necessity, and after that it's almost a deluge of events that make it harder and harder to maintain a grasp on reality.

The ending of Maeve Fly was one of the most brutally tragic and heartbreaking for so many different reasons, and its one that readers can almost see coming, but you still have to wait and find out along with Maeve how it's going to pan out anyway. This book is not afraid to test boundaries and to make a mark, and I think it absolutely succeeded in both of those. It's weird sometimes to say that I loved a book like this because of how fucked up it is, but I did. This book spoke to me on a weird level and I had a hell of a time on this adventure. 

If you're ready for heavily graphic scenes and open discussion of dark topics, then I would absolutely recommend this one. It was ultimately a rewarding and unforgettable experience and sure to be one I'll re-read. I read the audiobook version and it was perfect. Sosie Bacon did an excellent job and I would highly recommend the audio version if you like audiobooks. Overall, I've given Maeve Fly 4.5 stars!

*I received a copy of Maeve Fly courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

Buy the book: Amazon |

Thursday, February 16, 2023

Review: The Broken Darkness by Theresa Braun

The Broken Darkness
 by Theresa Braun
Independently Published
Publication Date: February 13th, 2023
Paperback. 294 pages.

About The Broken Darkness:

"In her debut collection, Theresa Braun explores the inner workings of the human heart and what it is we most desire—forgiveness, acceptance, love, fame, or merely to escape who we really are. Whether we are battling ghosts, demons, mythical monsters, the past, or other dimensions, we are really facing the deepest parts of ourselves. These thirteen tales of horror and dark fantasy may appear to be a matter of good versus evil, but they are all a reflection of the hidden corners of the soul that are often shades of broken darkness. The characters in these stories must face their inner and outer terrors, or else suffer the consequences."

Theresa Braun's The Broken Darkness is a chilling collection of horror stories that all center around what it means to be a human and deal with all the many emotions that come with that. I don't think I expected this collection to be quite as dark as it was, but I found that to be a pleasant surprise and enjoyed seeing the different levels Braun managed to take each of these stories. Before jumping into this review, I'd like to note that there are a lot of content warnings for these stories, so just be aware going into it that there are some intense topics. 

There are thirteen stories (coincidence? I'm thinking not!) in this collection, each containing a general horror vibe, while some had more paranormal elements in them than others, as well. Braun includes a really strong variety of stories ranging from hauntings and the aforementioned paranormal elements, to the deranged actions of some individuals, to the influence of some folkloric and mythic elements that took things to new levels.

A few of my favorites were:

"Dead Over Heels": This story follows Veronica and Sebastian as they meet for a first date, hit it off, and then notice something a bit peculiar happen while on their first date. They move on from this first happening, but as their relationship progresses they decide to figure out just what happened on that first date... and it's definitely not something they ever could have expected. This was a great introduction to the collection as a whole. It wasn't too intense (well, maybe a little at the end!) and laid just enough foundation to really lure me in to wanting to read the rest of the collection.

"Collecting Empties": I really can't say much about this story of a drunken night because it was so short that just about anything would give away too much. I loved how much Braun was able to pack into this short delight of a story and appreciated how much it kept me entertained. It's the short stories like this that often make me really appreciate when authors are able to craft something compelling and succinct.

"Stillborn": This one is probably not for the faint of heart, but I really liked this crazy and shocking story. We follow a nurse, Sylvia, as she begins working for a doctor who has a terrifying side hustle that makes Sylvia realize she is in way over her head. This was a rollercoaster from start to finish and definitely left me feeling uneasy–which is exactly what I want from a horror story!

"Stay Tuned": This one hooked me from the start. We follow a group of 'vigilantes' of sorts who take a lot of matters into their own hands... with methods that probably aren't exactly ones most people would condone. There were some huge twists and shocking moments in this one that left me completely unsure how to feel. I didn't find the latter half quite as compelling as the beginning when we are still getting to know these vigilantes and what they do, but overall I really enjoyed this particular story. 

Overall, I found this to be a very solid collection of stories. As with any anthology, there were certainly stories I enjoyed more than others, and I found just a few that didn't quite live up to the others. There were some with abrupt endings that fit well with the story and left you with an open ending that works well with horror, whereas others felt a bit too abrupt and I felt like there was too many things left unsaid or almost as if the story wasn't as complete as it could have been. However, even if I didn't think a story quite hit the mark in a way I expected it to, I still found myself captivating by at least one aspect in each story and I really liked the different ideas Braun played with throughout this collection. I've given The Broken Darkness four bloody stars!

*I received a copy of The Broken Darkness courtesy of the author in exchange for an honest review.*

Buy the book: Amazon |

Monday, November 7, 2022

Review: The Hollow Kind by Andy Davidson


The Hollow Kind by Andy Davidson
Publication Date: October 25th, 2022
Hardcover. 448 pages.

About The Hollow Kind:

"Andy Davidson's epic horror novel about the spectacular decline of the Redfern family, haunted by an ancient evil. 

Nellie Gardner is looking for a way out of an abusive marriage when she learns that her long-lost grandfather, August Redfern, has willed her his turpentine estate. She throws everything she can think of in a bag and flees to Georgia with her eleven-year-old son, Max, in tow. 

It turns out that the estate is a decrepit farmhouse on a thousand acres of old pine forest, but Nellie is thrilled about the chance for a fresh start for her and Max, and a chance for the happy home she never had. So it takes her a while to notice the strange scratching in the walls, the faint whispering at night, how the forest is eerily quiet. But Max sees what his mother can't: They're no safer here than they had been in South Carolina. In fact, things might even be worse. There's something wrong with Redfern Hill. Something lurks beneath the soil, ancient and hungry, with the power to corrupt hearts and destroy souls. It is the true legacy of Redfern Hill: a kingdom of grief and death, to which Nellie's own blood has granted her the key."

The Hollow Kind is a dense, complex epic horror story that covers two different timelines and an intense family saga. This is the first book I've read by Andy Davidson and I was immediately drawn in by his writing and ability to create an atmosphere that was absolutely dripping with a sense of darkness and unease. 

The Hollow Kind follows generations of the Redfern family as they find themselves haunted by an otherworldly evil. The story is split into two timelines: one timeline follows August Redfern, grandfather to Nellie, starting in 1917 and spanning several decades; and the second timeline takes place in 1989 and follows Nellie and her son Max as they move into their inherited family estate. 

In 1989, Nellie has recently discovered that she was left as sole heir to the family turpentine estate and sees this as her opportunity to take her son Max and leave her husband/Max's father and start life anew somewhere else. Upon arriving at the estate, however, Nellie and Max both slowly begin to realize that something at the house holds a dark and discontent feeling that threatens their attempts at a new beginning. The earlier timeline follows August Redfern's life on the turpentine estate and the many perilous ups and downs that occurred during his lifetime. I found it really interesting and helpful to get this insight in August's life, including meeting his wife, children, and the other important people in his life. There is an ever-present eeriness in both timelines, but the earlier timeline definitely shows more origins of that and feels somewhat more mysterious and terrifying in its own right. 

I found myself much more engaged in the 1989 storyline because Max and Nellie were personally more compelling and I liked seeing what was going on with the house at this later time. I also really liked seeing Nellie and Max as a team trying to get by. Nellie is a tough character who comes across as someone who doesn't like to show a lot of her feelings to just anyone, but rather works hard to appear strong and prepared, especially in front of her son. This doesn't make her closed off to him, however, and in fact I really liked seeing the moments when Nellie was very straightforward with Max and didn't shy away from realities just because he was a kid, all without burdening him too much with things because he is, of course, still a kid. Max is very perceptive and immediately sense that something about the house is not right, but seeing his mom's hope for this new place causes him to give it a chance. 

There are so many creeping elements that make this book such a strong horror pick, including an mystifying woods and an otherworldly sense of something wrong. In addition to this type of horror, however, are plenty of characters in this book who have done terrible things and are capable of doing terrible things. It's these characters that really help build an overall sense of unease and terror throughout the story. 

Although this story is meant to be unfolded at a slower pace that worked really well and excelled in developing a gradual unveiling, I did think that there were some parts that dragged on just a little too much. I found this occurred more often in the older timelines than the 1989 one–which is possibly why I was more drawn to the 1989 timeline–and these are the times when I found my attention waining ever so slightly. This happened the most right around the halfway points and a little after; I found the beginning and ending of The Hollow Kind to be very strong. 

Overall, I've given The Hollow Kind four stars! I really liked this atmospheric epic horror that covered multiple generations of a family story and will be checking out more of Andy Davidson's work. 

*I received a copy of The Hollow Kind courtesy of MCD in exchange for an honest review.*

Buy the book: Amazon |

Thursday, October 27, 2022

Horror Mini-Review Pt. IV: We Are All Completely Fine by Daryl Gregory

Welcome to part four of my mini horror review series, featuring We Are All Completely Fine by Daryl Gregory! Previous mini horror reviews can be found below: 

Part I: Moon of the Crusted Snow by Waubgeshig Rice
Part II: We Can Never Leave this Place by Eric LaRocca
Pt. III: Winterset Hollow by Jonathan Edward Durham

We Are All Completely Fine by Daryl Gregory
Tachyon Publications
Publication: July 21st, 2014
Paperback. 182 pages.

About We Are All Completely Fine:
"Harrison is the Monster Detective, a storybook hero. Now he’s in his mid-thirties and spends most of his time not sleeping. 

Stan became a minor celebrity after being partially eaten by cannibals. Barbara is haunted by the messages carved upon her bones. Greta may or may not be a mass-murdering arsonist. And for some reason, Martin never takes off his sunglasses. 

Unsurprisingly, no one believes their horrific tales until they are sought out by psychotherapist Dr. Jan Sayer. What happens when these likely-insane outcasts join a support group? Together they must discover which monsters they face are within and which are lurking in plain sight."

We Are All Completely Fine follows a group of people through their time in a therapy support group together. However, this is no ordinary group of people, but rather is composed of people who have survived their own horror story and have been living their life dealing with the aftereffects ever since. I’ve read a few books with this similar set up and have really enjoyed them, so I was pretty excited about this one.

What I liked: I really liked getting to know each character and their backstory since they all come from very different circumstances with some very unique, tragic history, and it was fascinating to see them come together and share these experiences with one another. It was particularly interesting to see how they all chose to deal with their experiences; for instance, some embrace it and are public with their experiences, whereas other try to hide from it and embrace as much invisibility as possible. Throughout the story, we visit each group member’s POV and get to see everything from their perspective, which I appreciated and I think allowed for a more well-rounded and compelling narrative to see how each perceived the rest of the group. I also liked Daryl Gregory’s writing style overall, and it definitely makes me want to read more books from him.

What I didn't like: There is a bigger overall plot that comes to light more near the end of the book, and although this plot was really interesting to explore, I did feel that things were just a little rushed and out of place at times for me. I liked seeing how individual characters ended up at the end, but I just didn’t necessarily love the pacing and I did find my focus wavering a bit in the latter portions of the book.

Overall, this is a very solid horror story following some intriguing characters straight from their own horror stories. It wasn’t as spooky as some horror novels are, but it will definitely still hit the spot for anything in the horror realm.


Tuesday, October 25, 2022

Horror Mini-Review Pt. III: Winterset Hollow by Jonathan Edward Durham

Today we have part III in my mini horor reviews series featuring Winterset Hollow by Jonathan Edward Durham! You can find my previous mini horror reviews below:
Part I: Moon of the Crusted Snow by Waubgeshig Rice
Part II: We Can Never Leave this Place by Eric LaRocca

Winterset Hollow by Jonathan Edward Durham
Credo House Publishers
Publication:  September 1st, 2021
Paperback. 286 pages.

About Winterset Hollow:
"Everyone has wanted their favorite book to be real, if only for a moment. Everyone has wished to meet their favorite characters, if only for a day. But be careful in that wish, for even a history laid in ink can be repaid in flesh and blood, and reality is far deadlier than fiction . . . especially on Addington Isle. 

Winterset Hollow follows a group of friends to the place that inspired their favorite book-a timeless tale about a tribe of animals preparing for their yearly end-of-summer festival. But after a series of shocking discoveries, they find that much of what the world believes to be fiction is actually fact, and that the truth behind their beloved story is darker and more dangerous than they ever imagined. It's Barley Day . . . and you're invited to the hunt. 

Winterset Hollow is as thrilling as it is terrifying and as smart as it is surprising. A uniquely original story filled with properly unexpected twists and turns, Winterset Hollow delivers complex, indelible characters and pulse- pounding action as it storms toward an unforgettable climax that will leave you reeling. How do you celebrate Barley Day? You run, friend. You run."

Winterset Hollows plays with the idea of what would it be like if one of your favorite childhood stories was based on characters that actually existed... but with a dark twist that will probably ruin your childhood forever once you figure it out. When a group of friends travels to Addington Isle, the real location that inspired the setting of Winterset Hollow, to celebrate Barley Day, they discover that things aren't quite what they appeared to be in the book...

What I liked: I really liked how much detail was put into crafting the fictional story within Winterset Hollow and that the author even included small excerpts at the beginning of each new part of the story, which allowed us readers to get a glimpse of what this well-loved childhood story is all about and why the characters are so beloved. I thought the atmosphere of Winterset Hollow was also built up extremely well and incorporated a captivating mix of nostalgia, tension, and a sort of creeping unease that built up as the story progressed. The author also managed to showcase the importance of various elements of the fictional world without overdoing it, and everything felt very subtly done. There's an excellent shift in tone between the beginning and later portions of the novel where things go from sort of endearing and charming and innocent to an almost outright terror and shock at some unexpected violence and discoveries. This book was a weird experience, but an entertaining one!

What I didn't like: I felt that there were portions in the exposition and post-climax parts of the book where things were dragged out just a little too much, which made the pacing drag slightly. There was also something about the characters–largely the secondary characters–that made me keep mixing up who was who. I read the audiobook version, so I'm not sure if it's indicated better in the book, but Winterset Hollow has a sort of omniscient narration style that jumped around to different characters fairly often and left me trying to keep up with what character we were following closely. 

Overall, I think Winterset Hollow holds up really well as a short horror novel that contains something a little shocking and terror-inducing for the spooky season!


Thursday, October 13, 2022

Horror Mini-Review Pt. I: Moon of the Crusted Snow by Waubgeshig Rice

Since October is the month where I try to read as much horror as I can (I always say this as if I don't read horror at other times of the year, but I really try to pack it in for October, haha!), I've decided that the best way to share some of these reads in the most efficient way possible will be to share occasional mini-reviews highlighting some of my picks. First up today is Moon of the Crusted Snow by Waubgeshig Rice and up next will be Eric LaRocca's We Can Never Leave this Place, with more to come!

Moon of the Crusted Snow by Waubgeshig Rice 

ECW Press
Publication: October 2nd, 2018
Paperback. 213 pages.

About Moon of the Crusted Snow:
"Former child actor Fiona St. James dropped out of the spotlight after a spectacularly public crash and burn. The tabloids called her crazy and self-destructive and said she'd lost her mind. Now in her late twenties, Fiona believes her humiliating past is firmly behind her. She's finally regained a modicum of privacy, and she won't let anything--or anyone--mess it up. 

Unlike Fiona, Sam Fox, who played her older brother on the popular television show Birds of California, loves the perks that come with being a successful Hollywood actor: fame, women, parties, money. When his current show gets cancelled and his agent starts to avoid his calls, the desperate actor enthusiastically signs on for a Birds of California revival. But to make it happen, he needs Fiona St. James. 

Against her better judgment, Fiona agrees to have lunch with Sam. What happens next takes them both by surprise. Sam is enthralled by Fiona's take-no-prisoners attitude, and Fiona discovers a lovable goofball behind Sam's close-up-ready face. Long drives to the beach, late nights at dive bars... theirs is the kind of kitschy romance Hollywood sells. But just like in the rom-coms Fiona despises, there's a twist that threatens her new love. Sam doesn't know the full story behind her breakdown. What happens when she reveals the truth?"

Moon of the Crusted Snow follows a small Anishinaabe community as the winter season looms and power and access to the outside world are suddenly cut off. The community begins to worry, leaders try to keep peace, and an unexpected visitor causes this community to lose it's grip on order. 

What I liked: This was a very slow-burn, creeping sort of horror. As readers, we know there's something off, but nothing really extreme or sudden happens for a while, effectively building up the tension of the story. We don't get much in the way of explanation for what is causing the outages and build-up to this apocalyptic event, which in a way I think highlights the isolation of this community and also, from a storytelling perspective, the isolating elements that fit so well with the horror genre. I loved how much Waubgeshig Rice shared about the culture and lives the Anishinaabe community and how much this affected their experiences and daily life, both before and after things start going haywire. There is such a heavy community presence and cultural influence that I think Rice captured extremely well and that I found really interesting and enlightening. 

What I didn't like: Nothing, really! As I mentioned, it's definitely on the slower side which could put some people off, and it's not an obvious outright "horror" full of extreme scares or gore, but rather one that is slowly discerned over time, and I could see this not working for some. There also really isn't much exploration into what caused the so-called apocalyptic event or to what extent is has affected the rest of the world, and although this really contributed to some horror elements, it also felt like there was just something missing with not knowing more. 

Overall, I've given Moon of the Crusted Snow four stars! I just discovered that there is apparently going to be a sequel for this book that the author is working on, so I'm very curious about what that will be and will now be eagerly awaiting it's publication. If you're looking for a quieter horror that has a slow build-up that's not overly in-your-face, then I think this would be a perfect choice. 

Buy the book: Amazon |


Friday, September 30, 2022

The Friday Face-Off: Horror

         Friday Face Off New

Welcome to The Friday Face-Off, a weekly meme at Books by Proxy. Join us every Friday as we pit cover against cover, and publisher against publisher, to find the best artwork in our literary universe.  You can find a list of upcoming topics at Lynn's Books.

This week's topic is:

There are so many options for horror and it was hard to choose. In the end, I chose to go with a favorite: The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones. I was pleasantly surprised by how many different editions there were for this one and I had so much fun exploring all of them. Let's have a look!

2020 US Hardcover | 2021 Spanish | 2022 Portuguese

2020 Russian | 2020 US ebook | 2021 German

2021 Large Print | 2022 Polish | 2020 SST Publications

My choice(s):
I honestly love so many of these, so it's hard to choose. I'd have to say the original US hardcover, Russian, and German ones are some of my favorites, probably! I'm really impressed by how unique the Russian edition is and also how beautiful it is, and the rest are just at stunning. 

What cover(s) do you like the most?

Monday, March 7, 2022

Review: Sundial by Catriona Ward


Sundial by Catriona Ward
Tor Nightfire
Publication Date: March 1st, 2022
Hardcover. 304 pages.

About Sundial:

"You can't escape what's in your blood... 

All Rob wanted was a normal life. She almost got it, too: a husband, two kids, a nice house in the suburbs. But Rob fears for her oldest daughter, Callie, who collects tiny bones and whispers to imaginary friends. Rob sees a darkness in Callie, one that reminds her too much of the family she left behind. 

She decides to take Callie back to her childhood home, to Sundial, deep in the Mojave Desert. And there she will have to make a terrible choice. 

Callie is worried about her mother. Rob has begun to look at her strangely, and speaks of past secrets. And Callie fears that only one of them will leave Sundial alive… 

The mother and daughter embark on a dark, desert journey to the past in the hopes of redeeming their future."

Sundial is Catriona Ward’s latest psychological horror after publishing The Last House on Needless Street last fall (which I loved!), and it certainly does not disappoint. 

Before diving into this review, I’d like to point out some content warnings for this book, including, but not limited to: child, spousal, and general familial abuse, animal cruelty, and general difficult subject matters. I was particularly bothered by the animal cruelty that largely affected dogs, so do be aware of that if it’s something that might bother you as well. This is definitely a tough read at times, but it’s one that I found equally riveting and left me constantly wondering what would happen to this odd array of characters. 

Sundial follows Rob, a mother of two who has a somewhat buried past that has been haunting her in the years since attempting to leave it all behind. Her past becomes more and more pressing in her mind as her eldest daughter, Callie, begins to demonstrate some disturbing problems and tendencies that leave Rob feeling helpless and worried for her already somewhat fractured family. She decides to take Callie to Sundial, her family home in the Mojave Desert, in order to attempt to help them both get to the bottom of their problems before anything worse happens. I won’t say too much more in regards to the plot because I feel the less you know about Sundial, the more enjoyable the reading experience will be. 

This story switches between two main timelines, that of the present day with Rob and her family, and that of Rob’s past growing up at Sundial with her tangled, unusual family. We also get occasional chapters featuring excerpts from a story called Arrowwood that Rob writes as a way, it seems, to come to grips with her past and express herself. I’ve a seen a few reviews questioning the purpose of these chapters, and I have to say that I agree in not entirely seeing them as a necessary component to this story. They were intriguing at first, but soon lost much impact and interest from me. 

Sundial is filled with characters who are not very likable and all seem to be struggling with something dark and disturbing. It’s difficult sometimes to really get into a book when there’s not really one character whose side you want to be on, but I felt that Ward did a good job of creating a compelling enough story to keep me wanting to find out how everything was going to work out for each of these characters. I was particularly frustrated by the relationship dynamic between Rob and her sister, Jack, which felt compulsive and dramatic, but fit well with the unorthodox manner in which they were raised that likely would have left them with not altogether healthy relationships. 

Ward’s writing is purposeful and expressive and does not shy away from making readers experience things as viscerally as her characters do. The atmosphere is eerie and dark, and the background of the Mojave Desert is the perfect backdrop for the events of this novel to unfold. I struggled to get through this one for some reason, and I think it’s because the pacing felt rather slow throughout most of the story, especially in the present day timeline once Rob and Callie reached Sundial. I understand this section was largely about Rob sharing her story with Callie and the readers, but it made the story drag a bit and I think made it a little bit of a slog through some of the more repetitive moments. Still, Ward’s prose is sharp and compulsive enough to keep me captivated by these messed up characters and even more messed up plot. 

Overall, I’ve given Sundial four stars. I debated a bit on somewhere between 3-4 stars, but in the end I think I was intrigued and captivated enough by this story to warrant a 4 star rating. I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys psychological horror, but do keep in mind the content warnings mentioned above and go into this knowing that it will not hold your hand through the difficult moments.

*I received a copy of Sundial courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

Buy the book: Amazon |

Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Can't-Wait Wednesday: Daughter of the Moon Goddess by Sue Lynn Tan & Road of Bones by Christopher Golden


Can't-Wait is a weekly meme hosted by Wishful Endings that spotlights exciting upcoming releases that we can't wait to be released! This meme is based off of Jill @ Breaking the Spine's Waiting on Wednesday meme.
May is packed with releases, which means we are once again going to be featuring three books each week for Can't-Wait Wednesday because one or two are simply not enough. :)

This week's upcoming book spotlights are: 

Daughter of the Moon Goddess by Sue Lynn Tan
Publication: January 11th, 2022
Harper Voyager
Hardcover. 512 pages.
Pre-order: Amazon |

"A captivating debut fantasy inspired by the legend of Chang'e, the Chinese moon goddess, in which a young woman’s quest to free her mother pits her against the most powerful immortal in the realm. 

Growing up on the moon, Xingyin is accustomed to solitude, unaware that she is being hidden from the feared Celestial Emperor who exiled her mother for stealing his elixir of immortality. But when Xingyin’s magic flares and her existence is discovered, she is forced to flee her home, leaving her mother behind. 

Alone, powerless, and afraid, she makes her way to the Celestial Kingdom, a land of wonder and secrets. Disguising her identity, she seizes an opportunity to learn alongside the emperor's son, mastering archery and magic, even as passion flames between her and the prince. 

To save her mother, Xingyin embarks on a perilous quest, confronting legendary creatures and vicious enemies across the earth and skies. But when treachery looms and forbidden magic threatens the kingdom, she must challenge the ruthless Celestial Emperor for her dream—striking a dangerous bargain in which she is torn between losing all she loves or plunging the realm into chaos."
This sounds absolutely beautiful and right up my alley! I cannot wait to have a chance to finally dive into this gorgeous book. 


Road of Bones by Christopher Golden
Publication: January 25th, 2022
St. Martin's Press
Hardcover. 240 pages.
Pre-order: Amazon |

"A stunning supernatural thriller set in Siberia, where a film crew is covering an elusive ghost story about the Kolyma Highway, a road built on top of the bones of prisoners of Stalin's gulag. 

Kolyma Highway, otherwise known as the Road of Bones, is a 1200 mile stretch of Siberian road where winter temperatures can drop as low as sixty degrees below zero. Under Stalin, at least eighty Soviet gulags were built along the route to supply the USSR with a readily available workforce, and over time hundreds of thousands of prisoners died in the midst of their labors. Their bodies were buried where they fell, plowed under the permafrost, underneath the road. 

Felix Teigland, or "Teig," is a documentary producer, and when he learns about the Road of Bones, he realizes he's stumbled upon untapped potential. Accompanied by his camera operator, Teig hires a local Yakut guide to take them to Oymyakon, the coldest settlement on Earth. Teig is fascinated by the culture along the Road of Bones, and encounters strange characters on the way to the Oymyakon, but when the team arrives, they find the village mysteriously abandoned apart from a mysterious 9-year-old girl. Then, chaos ensues. 

A malignant, animistic shaman and the forest spirits he commands pursues them as they flee the abandoned town and barrel across miles of deserted permafrost. As the chase continues along this road paved with the suffering of angry ghosts, what form will the echoes of their anguish take? Teig and the others will have to find the answers if they want to survive the Road of Bones."
This recently came to my attention because of a Goodreads giveaway (which I won, so hooray!) and I am so intrigued about the combination of elements in this book. I'm not sure how it's all going to go, but I am so down to try it and can't wait to start reading it. 

What do you think about these upcoming releases? What are your anticipated upcoming releases?

Thursday, October 28, 2021

Review: Taaqtumi: An Anthology of Arctic Horror Stories by Richard Van Camp, Aviaq Johnston, et al.


Taaqtumi by Aviaq Johnston, Richard Van Camp, Aviaq Johnston, et al. 
Inhabit Media
September 10th, 2019
Paperback. 184 pages.

Taaqtumi (an Inuktitut word meaning "in the dark") is an anthology that has been on my TBR pretty much since it was released, but for some reason I never had the opportunity to purchase a copy, and my library also never got it in. This past June, my mom grabbed a copy for me for my birthday (aren't moms the best?), and I'd been specially saving it for October to finally, finally read it. And it was wonderful! I love horror stories set in the arctic, and I've also been really loving learning more about indigenous cultures and the Inuit. I would absolutely recommend this book as a way to read horror from a culture other than your own, and simply because it's some great horror! There is also great glossary in the book with a pronunciation guide and definitions for all of the Inuktitut words that can be found throughout the book, and I found this glossary super helpful with that. Since this is a collection of short stories, I figured I'd go ahead and give each story a short review. The stories definitely vary in intensity, and some were far less so than others, but I think all contained some great scary elements that made them solid stories. 

Iqsinaqtutalik Piqtuq: The Haunted Blizzard by Aviaq Johnston: The Haunted Blizzard is short, simple, and sweet–in the most classically haunting way possible. It captures that feeling of not being sure of what's around the corner, not knowing whether to trust yourself or your imagination, and the feeling of being watched. I loved the active imagination theme in this one, but the reality of the situation as well. A great start to this collection! 4/5

The Door by Ann R. Loverock: The Door is about a man who, out of nowhere, comes across a lone door standing out in the snow one. It's quiet, haunting, and all about consequences and self-control. 4/5

Wheetago War II: Summoners by Richard Van Camp: I didn't love the writing as much in this one as others, but I found the story very compelling. I wanted to know a little bit more in the way of world-building, but as a short story I understand why it was limited. This was definitely a chilling story, and I'd love to see a longer version of this simply because it intrigued me so much. 4/5

Revenge by Thomas Anguti Johnston: This was a fairly gruesome story starring a hunter, a seal, and an ancient creature called the nanurluk. It was unexpected and gave me a more stilted writing style vibe, but it did a great job of capturing a more intense, violent atmosphere. 3.75/5

Lounge by Sean Qitsualik-Tinsley and Rachel Qitsualik-Tinsley: This was the longest of the stories, and unfortunately was not one of my favorites. I struggled a bit with getting into the future setting and following the overall plot, but it was still a solid story with some very compelling points. The world-building itself in this one was top-notch, but the characters didn't particularly click for me. 3/5

Utiqtuq by Gayle Kabloona: This is a zombie story that incorporates other, more real-life horror elements of relocation of indigenous peoples. This was chilling and well-written, though I would've liked to get a bit more from the ending. I'm not usually much of a zombie fan, but this story worked really well for me. 4/5

Sila by K.C. Carthew: Sila doesn't contain any supernatural elements, but it remains one of the scariest stories for the sheer exploration of inevitable actions and unclear endings. This is one that will stay with me and constantly keep me wondering about how this story actually ended. 5/5

The Wildest Game by Jay Bulckaert: This is a delightfully creepy tale involving cannibalism in a truly unsettling way. This story absolutely hit the spot for horror, and the writing style and tone made it a favorite. 5/5

Strays by Repo Kempt: Strays felt like a more classically scary tale of a vet during a snowstorm and some of the patients that are helped. This felt like a much bigger play into the psychological, and it is entirely unexpected. 4/5

I really enjoyed this collection of stories and am eager to look up more works by all of these authors! I would definitely recommend this if you're looking for a nice variety of small horror stories to keep you entertained and thinking. I've also recently become aware of another anthology of stories called This Place: 150 Years Retold featuring some of the same authors of this anthology, plus many more, and I'm very excited to check that one out sometime as well. 

Buy the book: Amazon | IndieBound

Friday, October 22, 2021

Favorite Horror Tropes

About two weeks ago I joined a Top 5 Tuesday post about some horror tropes that I didn't really care for, so I wanted to make a companion post to share some of my favorite tropes in horror (and, of course, I had to make a matching trope-y title banner!). I've really started to get more into horror in the past couple years, and I've been absolutely loving it. There are a lot of tropes that I probably have too much fun with in horror, but here's a few that tend to come to mind when I think of some horror tropes that I always tend to enjoy seeing. I'd love to hear if you like/dislike any of these tropes, and feel free to share some of your favorites as well!

1. Something's "off," but you don't know what. 

This can take a lot of different forms. For instance, I love when we're in a small town or a new area and the protagonist can tell that something's just not quite right, but can't put their finger on what. Of course, usually weird and/or creepy things start happening and then it starts to get more obvious. I also love when there's a person who is by all accounts a seemingly normal person, but there's just something not quite right about them. Basically anything with a bit of a weird vibe is my favorite, especially when you can't determine why it's so weird, it just is. 

2. Slow reveals

This is actually probably more common in movies, but I've read some books that do this well also. You know how some books/movies will slowly sort of pan towards a scene that doesn't necessarily overtly seem horrifying or disturbing because it's so normal, but as you get closer you realize it's something you want to wash out from your eyes forever? I'm a huge sucker for that, something about the slow realization of horror in front you is just so captivating to me. 

3. "It's not out there, it's in here with us."

This is one of the oldest tropes out there, probably, and is a bit overused at this point, but in general theory and execution and I still find this a great one just because of how undeniably scary it is! No matter what it is you're hiding from, there's something comforting about knowing that it's outside of your house or room or wherever, so the realization that it's actually inside where you are and you don't know exactly where is just terrifying to me. Sort of like how we've had a few wasp nests since we moved into this house that were all outside and that were removed, but then we found a live, angry wasp in our bathroom one night where we used to feel safe from them (this is absolutely the same thing as finding an alien or serial killer in your bedroom, duh). No, thank you. I also think the movie Alien does this one excellently. 

4. Anything gothic.

Going back to the basics on this one, but give me a big, spooky, crumbling mansion that's absolutely going to be haunted any day and I'm there. If a book/movie has any mention of a gothic mansion or castle or a classic haunting, I'm probably going to be at least checking it out. I can't help myself. 

5. Never seeing the monster.

I like this trope in a lot of variations, whether it's the characters and audience never actually see the scary thing, or whether the characters see it, but the audience doesn't. I think the book Bird Box handled this trope perfectly, where you literally should not try to see it, because if you actually do, you are no longer going to be that helpful or lucid enough to describe it (Now, the movie took it in a few weird directions, but that's neither here nor there). 

6. The house hates you.

This also falls under haunted houses in general for me usually, but I love when a house is actively trying to get people to leave the house, or is simply trying to kill them. What's scarier than the big place that's supposed to be a safety net wanting to push you out, often very aggressively?

7. Ancient evils.

This one is very tricky to get right, in my opinion, but when done right it's really fun. I largely tend to love when ancient evils are a problem when it means we get to dive into some history and explore some legends and the like. I always love when a story means characters have to dig through old books (I know, what a surprise) or track down old locals or people who may know something. Finding old things, digging deep into the past, it's something I love in general, so when you put it into a horror atmosphere, it's just that much more fun (usually). 

8. Everything's all wrapped up... or is it?

I don't know if this actually a trope or not, but it's hands down one of my favorite. This happens when a horror story is wrapping up and everything's either back to normal or just cleaned up to fix whatever the problem is, but then the last scene or page has something like, "but they never could figure out why that room always stayed so cold, no matter what they did" or something like that. I wish I had a good example, but you know what I mean, right?

What are some your favorite horror tropes?

Thursday, October 14, 2021

Review: Nothing But Blackened Teeth by Cassandra Khaw


Nothing But Blackened Teeth by Cassandra Khaw
Publication Date: October 19th, 2021
Hardcover. 128 pages.

About Nothing But Blackened Teeth:

"Cassandra Khaw's Nothing But Blackened Teeth is a gorgeously creepy haunted house tale, steeped in Japanese folklore and full of devastating twists. 

A Heian-era mansion stands abandoned, its foundations resting on the bones of a bride and its walls packed with the remains of the girls sacrificed to keep her company. 

It’s the perfect wedding venue for a group of thrill-seeking friends. 

But a night of food, drinks, and games quickly spirals into a nightmare. For lurking in the shadows is the ghost bride with a black smile and a hungry heart. 

And she gets lonely down there in the dirt."

Nothing But Blackened Teeth was a very promising horror novella that I'd been anticipating for quite a while, and unfortunately it was... definitely not what I expected. This is a very difficult to review to write and I really didn't even want to write it because, if we're being completely honest with one another, I really disliked this book. I don't really know how it happened and I know so many readers who have really enjoyed and/or even loved this book, but something about it just did not click with me whatsoever and I'm perfectly happy to consider that it's a 'me' problem and not a book problem, but you can decide that for yourself if you choose to read it. Maybe this book just didn't click with me, but regardless, let's talk about this book a bit.

Nothing But Blackened Teeth takes place in Japan in an old, rotting Heian-era mansion. I loved the Japanese folkloric elements and I actually think Khaw did a great job of incorporating those and sharing them in her story. I also did really like the 'lore' of the mansion and the atmosphere Khaw evoked by sharing it amidst the crumbling ruins of the mansion and the many creepy elements of it. Outside of that, however, I pretty much hated everything else about this book. The main problem for me, I think, is that this is set up as what seems to be a character-driven horror with some interesting character dynamics an plenty of baggage, but it was written more as a slasher with less focus on characters and instead a focus on shock, some gore, and some vivid, descriptive writing (which was really nice on its own!). 

Since the characters are a central focus of this novella (or so it appears), let's start with them. I get that this is a novella and there's not really much time to explore character dynamics and development, but this story desperately desperately needed it. These characters had so much baggage between themselves that there was absolutely no time for this book to cover even half of it. I found the slow sort of disintegration (?) of their mental states as things in the mansion got progressively more intense completely sudden and it did not flow at all with the story. Actions the characters took did not make any sense and I genuinely kept wondering if maybe I was missing a chunk of the story here and there, as if perhaps my ARC was messed up or something, but sadly, I don't think it was. 

The plot premise was promising, but much like the characters, it devolved pretty quickly after the first chapter or so. I remember telling my husband that I think I enjoyed the first couple Kindle pages of my ARC, but after that I really think I kept reading because I kept hoping it would get better, and it was some sort of train wreck I couldn't look away from--and not because I wanted to find out what would happen, but because I just couldn't understand this book. 

I think Khaw is a good writer and her prose was really nice and atmospheric–she definitely knows how to set a scene. What I didn't like were her attempts to be clever and somewhat break into a fourth wall style of talking about horror movies. A character would point out that they were just the comic relief and would definitely be the first to die, or mention a cliche horror trope before proceeding to implement said horror trope (fully aware, as it was meant). I don't mind this type of thing and I honestly usually like it, but it just felt so incredibly forced, and it made every other sequence in this plot feel like it was following a very specific set a horror checklists and the author just needed to check off each one, no matter whether it fit or flowed or not. The way things devolved made no sense. I understand in high stress situations, especially possessions and hauntings, things probably get intense very quickly, but these people's reaction made no sense to me. They tended to over- or under-react, and most of the time it was under-reacting. 

I didn't really want for this review to be a rant review because I definitely appreciate what Khaw was trying to do with this book and I also very much respect the fact that a lot of people really enjoyed this book, so I'm going to wrap up this review. Personally, it was an enormous flop for me and I cannot say how disappointed I was when I started reading it after hoping it would be one of the best little scary horror novels I'd read this October. If you've read this book, I would love to hear your thoughts on it! Overall, on Goodreads I gave this book one star, which I haven't done in ages, because I was just so frustrated and mad at it. Not sure if that rating will stay there or not, but that's where we're at, apparently!

*I received a copy of Nothing But Blackened Teeth courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

Buy the book: Amazon | Indiebound