Wednesday, 28 October 2020

Double Barrel Horror Vol. 3 edited by Matthew Weber

Brace yourself for another two-barrel blast of unrelenting horror and suspense. Volume 3 of the 'Double Barrel Horror' anthology series delivers two chilling tales from each of six talented authors for a 12-story onslaught that will blow you out of your sneakers. This time around, your fate lies in the hands of Christine Morgan, Mark Matthews, Theresa Braun, Calvin Demmer, Glenn Rolfe, and Robert Essig.

This is quite a unique horror anthology, it features six super talented authors who each contribute two tales of darkness rather than one. I really liked this concept as I felt you got to see more of the author. This technique could have failed badly if they could only produce one great tale and one not so great but each tale was fantastic. There wasn't one story that I didn't like which is rare for me. 

The first author featured is Christine Morgan with her two tales; Eye See You and Sharp Obsidian. Eye See You is a thrilling tale that descends into madness. A young girl develops an unusual phobia after a trip to Disney Land with her grandparents. What I really liked about this tale was that after a while you too will share in her phobia! A great start to an epic collection.

Sharp Obsidian Christine Morgan's second tale is wildly different. It is a dark fantasy tale inspired by Lovecraft of two siblings being hunted in a dark land full of horrors. Very otherworldly, very cool!

Next up is Robert Essig I really loved his two tales. The first was From Unclean Spells, the tale is about a man trying to get into the record books with the loudest burp ever recorded. From this point I was hooked I've never read anything quite like it. This tale was gory gross and just all out WTF Dude combined into an amazing ride. I get the feeling that this tale was just as fun to write as it was to read.  His second tale Fuel for the King of Death went down a really creepy route. A man heartbroken form his disastrous relationship decides to visit a museum he loved as a youngster. Of course being a horror tale, it is no ordinary museum and now he is to play a vital part in its upkeep. 

Wicked Smart Carnie by Mark Matthews was a really neat tale with extra grit. A man had something taken from him when he visited a fun fair in his youth. Now he has come back to take back what is his. Whilst I really liked Wicked Smart Carnie I absolutely loved Goodwin my god this was so dark and powerful. I don't want to say too much about it and ruin its impact when you read it but it was absolutely amazing. 

Next up is Theresa Braun a writer with great talent! Her first tale Stillborn is about a young nurse trying to make headway in her career. She is given a considerable advantage when the highly respected Dr Reynolds picks her out to be his protege. However there is something weird going on in her hospital her suspicions fully ignited by a strange woman claiming her babies had been stolen. This was a great mystery tale that has a really terrific ending.

Homecoming her second tale blends Scottish Horror with romance. What I really liked about Theresa's tale were that they were quirky and dark.  A young man is in heaven when he meets the lovely of his life, Melanie. She's so perfect that he decides he will propose during their idyllic holiday in Scotland will he get the outcome he wants?  

Highway Hunger by Calvin Demmer was a really fast paced action tale with a splattering of horror. Dudley starts a new job, removing road kill from a long stretch of highway. It's a fairly easy going job yet it comes with rules that cannot be broken under any circumstances. I really loved this tale from beginning to end.

Motel Madness really blew me away. This is a horror tale that never lets you go. This one genuinely scared me! It's a classic nightmare situation of waking up somewhere you did not expect to find yourself and also having no idea how the mishap unfolded. A brilliant tale of human corruption and the will to survive no matter the odds. Epic!

Glenn Rolfe is the last author to be featured with his two tales The Guide and The House on Mayflower Street both of which I really enjoyed. The Guide managing to be both poignant as well as creepy and after reading Motel Madness I needed it! However his second tale The House on Mayflower Street had no tender moments and was pure horror. I really loved this tale. I just can't resist a haunted house!

The Third Corona Book of Horror Stories

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I finally got round to reading this one and I'm so glad I did, this is a superb collection of 18 diverse horror tales. I liked every one of these and there were a few that I thought were really outstanding.

What I liked about this collection were that the stories all stood out, each one's an individual. There's a huge range of horror from straight up splatter punk to folk horror and deep psychological all united by a dark thread. There's something in here for everyone. I really enjoyed this collection and actually felt a bit sad when I realised I had gotten to the end!


Can't wait for the next instalment!


Suds and Monsters by Christopher Stanley 

Beware the wrath of an evil step-mother. This tale will leave you terrified of everything, including the kitchen sink. A great story to start off this amazing collection of horror tales.


The Debt  by John Haas

When Gary Jones wakes up he doesn't know where he is. He has no recollection of the night before. He fears his weakness for alcohol has lead him to a dark place. Gary has a debt and now its time to pay it back.

I don't want to say too much about this tale and spoil it but I will say this was one of my favourites of the collection. A really powerful tale, it deals with some really dark grim subject matter but yet the ending is satisfying.

Old Gods by Sue Bentley 

This tales reminds me of Indiana Jones except the expedition has gone very wrong. Two treasure hunters decide to loot the bounty of ancient gods whom have been long forgotten. Problem is, they have little understanding of the ancient tribe's customs and rites.

Curious if Anything by C.C.Adams 

One day a ghost turns up in a man's bathtub, he's not scared just curios if anything. He spends the next few days trying to figure out who the ghost was and what it wants with him. I loved this tale from beginning to end. Creepy and unsettling the ending is as brutal as an executioner's axe.

Cancer the Crab by Lewis Williams

Nature fights back when a fisherman takes too much, doesn't he know the sea can be a very cruel mistress when vexed?

Worse Things by Molly Thymes

A series of gruesome murders displaying the infamous grisly techniques of the bloodthirsty Vikings all centre around one man. A dark tale of what people will do to accumulate power.

Believe and Be Justified by Felix Flynn

A worshipper is about to meet his god blinded by religious fervour. It is the pilgrimage of a lifetime. He will do anything it takes to prove himself before the eyes of the almighty.

The Haunting of April Heights

I really liked this one, I'm a sucker for haunted house tales. This one is set in 1980's Britain. A young woman after a bad break up moves into April Heights a run down tower block on a council estate plagued with high crime and deprivation, but it offers a great view of the city and her best mate Sooz lives just next down. Even after warnings about the previous occupants she's eager to move in. She loves her new flat but her dog isn't so keen. 

Angel by Jo Gilmour

Daddy and daughter are united in their fight against the curse of sinners wreaking havoc upon Earth. Daddy calls her his "Little Angel" and she will fight for him until the very end. A really powerful tale.


Murder-abilia by Adam Meyer 

Another one of my favourites. A collector becomes enthralled with a set of grisly murders in his local area, before he knows it he's in too deep after a lucrative opportunity from a local detective. 

The First Circle by Sue Eaton 

I loved this strange little story. I could really relate to the ever growing problem of what to buy your other half for their birthday. The longer you're together the harder it gets, you have to think more creatively which is exactly what happens in this tale. This wife makes a bad decision when she buys a very strange object for her husband.

The Barber by P. Sessler

This tale starts out innocent when a barber takes on an apprentice for his expanding business but descends into gore and macabre desire for the ultimate customer satisfaction. 

Luna Too by Jess Doyle 

A brilliant folk horror tale. Luna goes on holiday with her parents to a remote cottage named Ty Dewlin. The caretaker explains in means Warlock House named after the War Lock who once built and lived in the cottage hundreds of years ago. It is a cottage with some strange superstitions.

Roxy by Victoria Faust

A farm girl forms an attachment to one of her animals but all too soon it is time to say goodbye. Let me tell you this, it's no ordinary farm! A deeply unsettling tale. I loved it!

A Little Death by Ryan Harville

A man's life is thrown into chaos by the untimely death of his beloved wife. He cannot cope without her and soon becomes lost in his own world. Can anyone save him? 

Gamer by Richard A.Shury 

A dark tale of obsession and murder, what really goes on in your kid's bedroom? Remember computer games aren't always just games, sometimes they're gateways.

Cecily by Colette Bennett

Forgotten by his mother during childhood a man grows so lonely he will turn to anyone for love and affection. His virtual assistant Cecily is there for him in ways he can't imagine.

Lily's Kids by Florence Ann Marlowe

This was my absolute favourite from this amazing collection. Jimmy and his younger sister Katie go off exploring in their local neighbourhood when they come across an abandoned barn perfect for a secret den. When they get closer they realise it's not as empty as they first thought. Inside are three strange children that make the twins from The Shinning look cuddly and cute. 

Scythe by Jeremy Megargee

A slow building tale of terror made all the more terrifying when you realise what the shadow is! 





Green Fingers by Dan Coxon




"A series of micro-collections featuring a selection of peculiar tales from the best in horror and speculative fiction.

From Black Shuck Books and Dan Coxon comes Green Fingers, the nineteenth in the Black Shuck SHADOWS series."


This short story collection immediately intrigued me by the cover! I love it! Also the name of the publishers- Black Shuck Books. For many years I have been drawn to British folklore and when you twin it with horror you have a winning combination such as Green Fingers by Dan Coxon.

Dan Coxon is also the editor of Enter The ShadowBooth, many of the tales included in here made their way into Ellen Datlow's Best Horror of the Year volume 11. So far there have been four volumes and if you like creepy horror you must check them out. He is also the editor of This Dreaming Isle and has had many of his own stories published in magazines such as Black Static, Unsung Stories, Hinnom and Neon Literary Magazine to name but a few.

Since reading Cinders of a Blind Man Who Could See by Kev Harrison, The Forest is Hungry by Christopher Stanley, and The Reddening by Adam Nevill, I was desperate for more stellar folk horror. Luckily for me Green Gingers was at hand.

There are seven short stories in this collection which all work really well together. I really liked all these stories but Green Fingers and The Pale Men were my favourites.

This is the sort of horror that draws you in playing you with a false sense of security until suddenly it strikes. Deeply atmospheric these tales are events that feel like they could happen to anyone, no one is safe within these pages. This collection is superbly written because it feels so real, Dan Coxon takes the strange and makes it seem probable.


Invasive Species

A married couple caught in the doldrums of marriage move to The Peninsula home of many wonderful exotic plants such as Swamp Lantern, Stink Currant and Monkey Flower to name a few. Whilst her husband is at work the wife beast back her loneliness by getting acquainted with her new garden. 

Out of the blue a plant is sent to her as a gift. There is no card, no way of telling who sent it and what the plant is but in no time at all the wife carefully finds it a permanent home in her garden.


By Black Snow She Wept 

In 1822 something happened up in those mountains, something that has haunted Mary Hopkiss for almost 20 years and now it is time for her to tell her side of the story...

Silas and Mary have recently emigrated arriving in the USA, travelling across treacherous landscape, they dream of finding their fortunes to build a new life together. Conditions are hard but they have each other on their arduous journey, except they are not entirely alone.

The Pale Men

Leonard's son returns home after a long absence to bury his recently deceased father. They've had a troubled and often fraught relationship. Coming back after all these years reminds him of all the dark days of his childhood he was forced to endure and what drove him to flee.

But then being in his Dad's old haunts his late father's mysterious begin to draw him in holding him close.

Out of the collection this was my favourite! Fans of the British horror magazine Black Static will love it too.

We Live in Dirt

Once a proud and successful man, Miles couldn't help but eventually succomb to old age. He wants to live out his final years in peace  but a strange memento mori from his past resurfaces and threatens to ruin him and his legacy. Despite being in his sunset years he can't afford for the events of 25 years ago to resurface. He can't let the truth escape.

Green Fingers 

Another of my faves! A mysterious tale centred around an impossibly old tree. I've always been fascinated by these gentle giants who silently stand among us century after century. Who knows what they have witnessed in their long lives, what they have overheard, what they know and just how they stay alive so long?

We follow the tale of a young freelancer mostly working from, following a lifestyle of social distancing before Coronavirus. She only really ventures out in the local forest to walk her beloved dog, Oscar, who one fateful day discovers a remote part of the woods best left undisturbed. This was a super fun read! 

Among Pines

Although he's been told over and over again not to worry about the screaming outside their log cabin he can't escape from its urgency. 

Four friends escape New York City for a couple of days to recharge after their hectic lives have worn them out. They travel out into the wilderness to stay in Janie's Uncle's log cabin. He doesn't stay there anymore, not after the incident...


Monday, 21 September 2020

Unbecoming Me, & Other Interruptions by Christopher Stanley

 


A chilling new short story collection from the author of The Forest is Hungry and The Lamppost Huggers and Other Wretched Tales.

In 'Devil's Reach', a frantic father boards a ferry, hoping to save his daughter and escape his wife. But nothing is as it seems as the ferry sails into darkness, and there are forces at work he won’t begin to understand until it’s too late.

In 'Hell's Teeth', a young girl enlists the help of supernatural forces to exact revenge on the school bully, only to find she can’t live with guilt.

And in the final story, 'Unbecoming Me', a young man’s desperate search for love takes an unexpected turn after he’s rejected by the woman of his dreams.

Dark, sinister and unforgiving – Unbecoming Me & Other Interruptions will make you want to sleep with the lights on.

Demain Publishing is back and I couldn't be happier! I've just finished reading Curfew by Kev Harrison and now Unbecoming Me, & Other Interruptions by another greatly talented author, Christopher Stanley. Recently I read The Lamppost Huggers, his debut flash collection and absolutely loved it.




His first offering with Demain Publishing was a novelette, The Forest Is Hungry, which I loved, British horror at it's best. So I had really high expectations for this mini collection of three short stories - Devil's Reach, Hell's Teeth and Unbecoming Me. 



The first tale, and also my favourite is Devil's Reach. This is a mad creepy tale of a husband trying to escape from his controlling wife with their nine month old baby. He's made it to the ferry but can he start a fresh once he lands on the other side? I loved this tale, it was fantastic from beginning to end. It's a really gripping story that hooks you in.

Hell's Teeth is the darkest story I've read in a long time. I really loved Daisy, this poor little girl who has a miserable time at school. She's an easy target for the school bully but finds a way to get this monster off her back. But of course there's no happy ending  for anyone involved here.

Unbecoming me, tells the story of two twins navigating their way through life, except one died at birth. I really liked the strangeness of this tale when one twin has a life changing moment of falling in love with the wrong person.

All in all, a great collection. I can't wait to read more in the series!




Curfew by Kev Harrison

 



When Jamie takes his girlfriend for a summer anniversary getaway by the sea, he thinks only the great British weather can ruin his plans. But he hasn’t accounted for Mrs Heinz, the bizarre proprietor of The Sailor’s Rest, and her obsessive fixation on midnight and curfew...


I'm so excited that Demain Publishing is back with another onslaught of horror! Seriously this series is really addictive! 

Over the years I've read a lot of Kev Harrison's work. They're all great fun and of course very dark. I loved his previous tale in the series - Cinders of a Bind Man Who Could See. This was an excellent serving of folk horror set in a small community in Northern England.



The last tale I read by Kev was his folk horror novella,  The Balance, which I absolutely loved. It's a great reinterpretation of the legendary Baba Yaga folk tale with a modern twist. It's gone on to receive great praise and now's he's back with Curfew.


Curfew is about a fun romantic weekend going very wrong! Jamie takes his girlfriend down to Bournemouth for a fun weekend by the sea. They've been dating for two years and he wants to show her how much she means to him.

Their bed and breakfast is perfect, it's delightfully quaint and old fashioned, clean and well kept. The prefect setting for a romantic weekend except for the proprietor - Mrs Heinz. She expects all her paying guests to be in their rooms by midnight - no exceptions!

Once midnight hits there's a change in the guesthouse located out of town. Jamie grows curious he doesn't like being dictated to by a sour old woman sitting by the fire waiting for something.

This is a quick read, perfect for when you're between books. The tale starts quickly and is great fun throughout. The characters do feel like a real couple who only want to have fun before their daily grind resumes on Monday.

I loved the ending too, but obviously can't say much about that without giving out spoilers!




Thursday, 20 August 2020

Boneset and Feathers by Gwendolyn Kiste





You don't know their fire is coming until it's too late. That's exactly the way the witchfinders like it. As an isolated enchantress, Odette knows this too well--she lost nearly her whole family to the last round of executions, barely escaping with her own life. All the magic she could conjure wasn't enough to protect her mother and sister, a burden that leaves a despondent Odette practically wishing she'd burned with the rest.

Now it's five years later, and as the last witch left from her village, Odette has exiled herself to the nearby woods where she's sworn off all magic, hoping instead for quiet and for safety. But no witch has ever been permitted a peaceful life.

It starts with crows tumbling out of the clouds and spectral voices on the wind that won't leave her alone. Then there are those midnight visits to the graveyard that she can't quite remember in the morning and the strange children following her everywhere she goes. Odette wants to forget magic, but her magic doesn't want to forget her. Meanwhile, the former friends she left behind in the village are cowering together, hiding from the ghostly birds they believe she's sent to torment them for abandoning her. But that's only the beginning of their problems, as Odette soon discovers their worst nightmare is about to come true--the witchfinders are returning. And this time, the decree is clear: to burn the witch that got away.

With the men drawing nearer to the village, Odette must face the whispers from the dead and confront her fear of her own growing power if she wants any chance of stopping the army of witchfinders determined to rid the countryside of magic once and for all.






This is the second novel from Gwendolyn Kiste and I'm beyond excited to have been given the opportunity to read it before it's officially released on 3rd November 2020. Such an honour!

For most of you, Gwendolyn Kiste doesn't need an introduction. She is a Bram Stoker Award winning author of dark fiction. Her short stories have appeared in Nightmare, Black Static, Shimmer, Lamplight, and Three Lobed Magazine plus many others. Her first novella Pretty Marys All in a Row received critical acclaim upon release in 2017. As did her first novel, The Rust Maidens from Trepidatio Publishing in 2018.




And now we have Boneset and Feathers to devour which will be released in November 2020 from Broken Eye Books. A gorgeous book featuring magic, witches, ghosts and revenge turned sour.

I don't want to give out spoilers but it's spectacular! Gwendolyn Kiste takes the magical and makes it real, makes beautiful the macabre. I really loved this book, I've read it twice already!

I think one of the many reasons why Gwendolyn's stories resonate so deeply with her readers are that her characters are almost always outsiders, forgotten and bereft. Everyone's felt like that at some point in their lives.Rejected from the world, forced through their circumstances to forge a survival locked in a world of loneliness and despair. 

In her tales these outsiders learn to adapt embarking on a monumental transformation, sometimes they rise up to claim back their lives becoming stronger than their foe or falling into deeper depths of despair that have no escape.

What I also love about her writing is that it always so emotionally raw. As a reader you feel so connected to her characters like they have been your friend and confidante since childhood. In Boneset and Feathers I immediately felt a connection to our heroine Odette.

Boneset and Feathers is the tale of a young woman who against all odds and logic outwitted the witchfinders when they came to her village and set it ablaze. She pays a heavy price for her survival, everyone she once loved are dead and sometimes she wishes she could join them in the grave.

Five years on and she's living alone in the woods, she should be surrounded by love and laughter, friends and family. Instead she's an outcast from the only village she's stepped foot in, and now she's forced to live in a haunted woods where travellers and locals fear to tread. Why? Because she is a witch living in a world that barely tolerates women.

Trouble starts once again when birds, which have been absent for the last five years, begin drop dead out of the sky. Along with everything else she fears she will be blamed for this. Such an unnatural event is going to bring attention once more from the city ruled by men to this small village.

Odette just wants a quiet life living in her cottage handed down by generations of witches. Unlike so many of her kind she just wants to die alone in peace, without flames and torment, but trouble seeks her out. Magic is calling out to her, begging for Odette to take charge and finish the spell that was started five years ago.

Unlike the other witches reduced to ash, their names forgotten, Odette has garnered fame and loathing. Even those who were once her friends think her a monster. She is the only witch that would not burn. 

I ended up racing through this book as once the pace picks up it keeps going in an exhilarating journey with lots of twists and turns. 

Odette may have been left physically weak, starved of food and warmth but inside she possesses a spirit stronger than she realises until she is pushed to her breaking point.

P.S.

If you love witchy stories you'll also love Of Sorrow and Such by Angela Slatter and the marvellous anthology Hex Life edited by Christopher Golden and Rachel Autumn Deering




Friday, 31 July 2020

Snake Charmer Blues by Keith Anthony Baird







I'm not your average, everyday American. By the time you've finished listening to what I have to say you're going to get that. Sure, I do average, everyday things, but only to go unnoticed while I'm planning and doing the things that aren't. Y'see, I've killed people - for good reasons though. I mean, it'd be plain wrong to just murder someone who didn't deserve it - I'm not a psychopath y'know.

In fact, I fit right in really. If you looked at me, you wouldn't think for a minute I'd bashed in the head of a frail old lady, watched people die in the house fire I lit, or made sure a jumped-up motorhead got crushed to death in the tin can on wheels I 'fixed'.

There are others too, but you'll have buy this little look inside my head to find out the rest of it. Don't want to? Really? Let me just make a note of that ...



Our unnamed character's life changes forever when a carnival comes to their town, bringing the magical and mysterious snake charmers. Upon seeing these magicians up close they become ignited with purpose; to charm the snakes of the world and make it a better place.

Turns out our character doesn't need to look hard to find snakes. Soon they're popping up everywhere and there's no one better to "charm" them than our protagonist who exudes both charm and evil!

This tale soon descend into utter darkness as we follow our crusader on their journey to make the world a better place. Once they have started their quest the know they can never finish.

I had great fun reading this tale, I had no idea of where it was going to lead the plot is as agile as snake on the prowl, it takes you on a action packed fast paced adventure right up to the terrifying conclusion!