Book Review: Dark Carnival by Joanna Parypinski

Review By Daphne Strasert

I love secrets. Family secrets, small-town secrets, secrets of the universe… and I found all of those in Dark Carnival by Joanna Parypinski. If you like a good secret as much as I do, pick up a copy and enjoy.

Dark Carnival follows Dax Howard as he returns to his hometown of Conjunction, Nebraska after his father’s death. He had hoped to leave his home far behind when he went to college, but small towns have a way of pulling people back in, no matter how far they go.  The homecoming isn’t pleasant. Dax had not been close with his father—the town drunk—ever since his mother had disappeared years ago.

Returning to his hometown doesn’t just bring up unpleasant memories. Something is wrong in Conjunction, something more than drunken teen parties and the slow, creeping grip of meth addiction. Conjunction seems to be rotting from the inside.

Soon, Dax finds himself caught up in scandal, murder, and forces beyond his understanding. The travelling carnival that disappeared along with Dax’s mother comes back, and brings with it whispers of a cult responsible for missing teens in town.

Dark Carnival never lags for a moment. Parypinski creates twists in the story that are unexpected without seeming to be drawn from thin air. Elements introduced early on come back later with a satisfying payoff.

The characters feel real and believable. They tap into dark parts of American culture without coming across as contrived.

Throughout Dark Carnival, Dax struggles with bitter memories of his family and past. There is no clear answer to the difficulties he faces and there are no easy solutions to his new problems. Still, Dax faces them with determination. He does his best and wins admiration through that.

Dax is accompanied by Wyatt—the friend he left behind—and Wyatt’s sister Sarah—a teenager who has grown up too fast.

Wyatt reflects Dax’s own fears about life in Conjunction. He pushes and pulls at Dax’s resolve, testing his true convictions and bringing into question whether Dax has what it takes to solve the mysteries in his own life.

Sarah stands strong as a powerful female presence in the story. Her loyalty and fierce determination provide strength for Dax when he otherwise would give up.

All the while, the single-minded and vengeful Sheriff Anderson provides a backbone of unease throughout the story. His relentless pursuit of Dax creates an immediate sense of danger, even as a greater threat looms over Conjunction.

In her portrayal of Conjunction, Nebraska Parypinski paints a haunting picture of the Midwest. Dark Carnival leans heavily on American Gothic themes. It takes an unflinching look at what really plagues small towns in America. Conjunction feels as real as any place, even with the supernatural hiding in the unexplored forests and fields.

Parypinski is an incredible writer. She provides stunning imagery that brings the setting to life. She creates tension seamlessly within the scenes. She even tackles more difficult subjects (such as delusions, drug use, and violence) in ways that are accessible and believable. She creates an air of mystery and provides just enough explanation to elicit terror.

Dark Carnival suits fans of cosmic horror like H.P. Lovecraft or American gothic literature like Her Dark Inheritance (reviewed here on HorrorAddicts.net). If you enjoy small towns with dark pasts, terror-laced walks through the woods, and family tragedy, you should read Dark Carnival.

Book Review: A Single Light by Tosca Lee

A Single Light by Tosca Lee
Review by Stephanie Ellis

Rating: 4/5 stars

This book is the sequel to The Line Between

singlelightSix months after vanishing into an underground silo with sixty others, Wynter and Chase emerge to find the area abandoned. There is no sign of Noah and the rest of the group that was supposed to greet them when they emerged—the same people Wynter was counting on to help her locate the IV antibiotics her gravely ill friend, Julie, needs in order to live.

As the clock ticks down on Julie’s life, Wynter and Chase embark on a desperate search for medicine and answers. But what they find is not a nation on the cusp of recovery thanks to the promising new vaccine Wynter herself had a hand in creating, but one decimated by disease. What happened while they were underground?

With food and water in limited supply and their own survival in question, Chase and Wynter must venture further and further from the silo. Aided by an enigmatic mute named Otto, they come face-to-face with a society radically changed by a global pandemic, where communities scrabble to survive under rogue leaders and cities are war zones. As hope fades by the hour and Wynter learns the terrible truth of the last six months, she is called upon once again to help save the nation she no longer recognizes—a place so dark she’s no longer sure it can even survive.

The follow-up to The Line Between brings me the apocalyptic feeling that appeared to be slightly lacking in the first book and as a result, gave a more satisfying read in that respect. The book starts off with pretty much a recap of what had happened previously and so allows anyone who hasn’t read the first book to get to grips with the storyline. Unfortunately, if you have read the prequel, it does come across somewhat heavy-handed and I found it rather annoying as it took a while to move the story further along. Once the author had brought everyone ‘up to speed’ however, the story did move along quite nicely and became a book that I didn’t really want to put down.

The safe-haven Wynter and Chase found for themselves has become anything but. Accusations lead to life-or-death situations, and the once united community splinters and suspicion becomes rife as the clock counts down to ‘Open Day’ in an increasingly claustrophobic atmosphere. Even when the silo opens, nothing goes to plan and there follows a desperate race against time for Wynter to find the necessary medicine to save a close friend’s life. They travel through damaged townships and into dangerous cityscapes, discover the extent of hunger and lack of medication, and the spread of the disease wiping out the human race. Through all this, Wynter’s ability to trust those around her is challenged by an apparent betrayal and her relationship with Chase falters as a result. The book develops into a nicely-paced page-turner, keeping you going to see if Wynter has the happy ending you would like for her or not. As someone who generally backs off from books with a ‘romance’ element, this aspect was sufficiently well done not to make me cringe and kept me reading.

The only reason I did not give this book 5 stars, was the opening ‘catch up’ chapter.

This book is for you if you like an apocalyptic thriller with a dash of romance.

Book Review: The Place of Broken Things by Linda D. Addison and Alessandro Manzetti

Reviewed by Voodoo Lynn

The Place of Broken Things is a new book of poetry penned by Linda Addison and Alessandro Manzetti. They take the reader through a fascinating labyrinth of pain, remembrance, and longing.  Though the book may be short, the verses are filled with haunting imagery that burrows into your very being. It carries you to places like Angkor Wat, Provence, and imaginary Harlem. With each poem, you are transported to a new broken place where you learn about the suffering of each subject. The use of language is flowing and free, nothing about it seems forced. I even learned a couple of new words.

Throughout the book, the contrast between a cold and harsh modern reality and the deep, rich inner life of the characters is enthralling. Perhaps it’s not escapism so much as a philosophical lease on life. There are several references to religion. One of my favorites is in the poem “Cathedral Lane.” In it we are taken through the morning life of a homeless Native American in a large city. Many of the poems in this collection are set in busy cities which we tend to think of as dark and grey but here they take on a new and colorful life through the character’s eyes.  The homeless man is Navajo as the poem makes reference to a sun deity-Nandzgai and a night deity-Chahalgel. Although the man is destitute, he still manages to see the world in a beautiful, serene and timeless way, which is in stark contrast to his cacophonous and grimy surroundings. My favorite line is: 

“Somewhere in the distance the sun returns, sliding up from the horizon, as night retires he opens his eyes to greet the passing of Now from one sky god to another…”

One poem that stuck with me is ‘Animation’. It caught my attention right away because of the format of the poem itself was visually interesting. The poem’s setting is in an office and talks about, what reminds me of a Borg invasion in the Star Trek universe. The office is thrown into chaos as all the metal and wiring coalesces into a humanoid being saying “join us.” What follows is a futile attempt to escape, ultimately leading to assimilation. When the poem first starts out, it formed into two moderately sized diamond shapes. Then, as the escape ensues, the sentences expand outward, and then become smaller, like a triangle. It does it again. And then, finally, as the worker is captured and is being taken over by the metal and wires, the sentences become smaller until it ends in one word, “join.” Because of the physical shape of the poem, I felt like I was experiencing what the office worker felt. The actual description of the process of assimilation is succinct and very effective. The end description will always stay with me:

“Flesh body knitted with steel, eyes empty, weeping blood floats in front of me. Wire caresses my face, enters my ears, metal loops bind me to the walls…”  

It just sends shivers down my spine. With the current rise in A.I. and predictive programming technology in our everyday life, this poem takes on a whole life of its own and forces the reader to wonder, what if? 

The last poem I want to talk about is “She, on Sunday.” This one fascinates me. It talks about an older woman remembering her past, and her obsessive need to repeat certain memories and how she’s become trapped in a small room, perhaps in real life, perhaps in her own mind- I’m not sure. This poem is tied together by the author’s musical references throughout. They mention Yann Tiersen, I know this name. As it turns out he was responsible for the soundtrack to the whimsical film Amelie, one of my favorites. If you are not familiar with the film, there are a few piano instrumentals in it that express a deep sense of longing, which is a perfect companion to the poem. I strongly encourage you to YouTube this music and listen to it while reading to get the full effect. There is a strong connection to the character’s obsession with her memories and her obsession with certain music. The imagery throughout the poem is amazing. You get to see something so unassuming and ubiquitous and have it transformed into a surreal Escher-esque image. For example, take someone playing the piano and have it described to you as follows: 

“…moving cold fingers, pressing blurry fingerprints on the ivory keys, bleeding curves, lines and black and white mazes which vibrate following the coils of a music theme…” 

This poem also has one of my favorite lines in it: 

“…like women’s scents in the days when the incense of spring begins to burn…”

So lovely.

The Place of Broken Things is filled with such magnificent imagery and sadness, it is sure to satisfy many. There are over thirty selections to choose from, some written individually, and others are a collaborative effort between the poets- all are worth checking out. If you are in the mood to indulge yourself in darkness and pain, then I suggest reading this book and know that you are not alone. The Buddha said, “all life is suffering.” As it turns out in the end, that is something we all have in common.

HorrorAddicts.net Press Presents – eHorror Bites 4: Requiem in Frost

RFBANNER

On this day of Mabon, HorrorAddicts.net is proud to present the next book in their eHorror Bites series. eHorror Bites 4: Requiem in Frost is the newest work of Next Great RFJFHorror Writer Contest winner, Jonathan Fortin.

BLACK METAL LIVES!

Located in the deep frostbitten woods of Norway, Ingrid’s new home is old, spooky, and possibly haunted. Guttural screams wake Ingrid and her mother nightly. When they discover the shrieks belong to deceased former occupant and extreme metal musician, Skansi Oppegård, Ingrid investigates the mysterious circumstances surrounding his death. Hoping to exorcise Skansi’s ghost, she talks her mom into being part of a metal band. Oppegård’s last musical creation awakens forces beyond Ingrid’s understanding and causes Skansi’s murderer to resurface. In the battle between a madman and zombies, metal may be the only weapon she has.

A Peek Inside

REQUIEM IN FROST

When I opened my eyes, it was still dark—probably after midnight. When I took off my headphones, I didn’t hear screaming. However, the hairs on the back of my neck stood up.

Someone was standing in the corner of my room.

He was tall and muscular, with long, ragged hair. Smeared skeletal makeup covered his face, mingling with open scars. His torso was splashed with a fresh coat of crimson, dripping all over the floor, but drippiest of all was the huge axe in his hand. As I considered the growing red pool at his feet, I found myself wondering where all that blood had come from…

Is Mom all right?

The thought hit me with the force of a speeding train. If the ghost had hurt Mom, he could hurt me, too. Perhaps it should have been obvious, but I’d never felt threatened until that moment. My heart stopped as I lay there, paralyzed in bed, fearing he would kill me, and that he’d killed Mom already.

The spirit approached my bed, his huge axe dripping a river onto the floor. I tried to muster up the courage to run, but my legs were frozen in place. All too quickly, he was right beside me, raising his axe high.

“Skansi…” It came out before I could stop it, the squeak of a girl much younger than myself.

The spirit halted, surprise in his bulging eyes. Perhaps he hadn’t expected me to know his name.

“Someone killed you, didn’t they?” I asked, my throat dry.

The spirit continued to stare, but he did not lower his axe.

JonathanFortinAuthorPhoto_SepiaJonathan Fortin is the author of Lilitu: The Memoirs of a Succubus (coming December 2019 from Crystal Lake Publishing) and Nightmarescape (Mocha Memoirs Press). An unashamed lover of spooky Gothic stories, Jonathan was named the “Next Great Horror Writer” in 2017 by HorrorAddicts.net. He attended the Clarion Writing Program in 2012, one year after graduating summa cum laude from San Francisco State University’s Creative Writing program. When not writing, Jonathan enjoys voice acting, dressing like a Victorian gentleman, and indulging in all things odd and macabre in the San Francisco Bay Area. You can follow him on Twitter.

You can also find Jonathan in HorrorAddicts.net’s Clockwork Wonderland and eHorror Bites 3: #NGHW Editor Picks.

 

 

 

 

HorrorAddicts.net Press Presents PLAGUE MASTER: Rebel Infection

H.E. Roulo and HorrorAddicts.net Press proudly present: Plague Master: Rebel Infection.

The dramatic sequel to Plague Master: Sanctuary Dome, and second book in the Plague Master Series, is now available.

Enter the World of PLAGUE MASTER: REBEL INFECTION

PM Rebel InfectionTrevor’s return from the zombie infection makes him unique. It also makes him dangerous.

He’s a hero on his homeworld, celebrated for finding a vaccine against the zombie virus, but the ruling Founders don’t trust him and his low origins. When the revolution comes, Trevor is caught in the middle.

Despite his homeworld’s troubles, a message from a Plague Master forces Trevor to seek reinforcements. He hunts for Kristin, the woman he left behind, and an answer to why the vaccine is failing.

He and his friends must fight on space stations and worlds overtaken with infected to discover the terrible truth about his cure.

New to the Plague Master Series? Find the first book here:

 

PLAGUE MASTER: SANCTUARY DOME

When Samantha’s brother goes missing, the trail leads to Julius Cerberon, the rich philanthropist who built a dome for sufferers of mankind’s newest disease. Can she really accuse the universe’s greatest humanitarian of murder?

Meanwhile, on a downtrodden planet, Trevor has the unenviable job of zombie bait. He saves his dream girl, but she is infected. Her goodbye kiss forces him to escape to the domed utopia where infected are quarantined until they change–but he will never change, isn’t infected, and has to keep kissing the girl to pass the tests. Not a bad deal, until the dome breaks and a planet-worth of zombies invade.

And his girl could change any minute now.

PRAISE FOR
PLAGUE MASTER: SANCTUARY DOME

“A perfect mix of classic sci-fi and zombie horror. Once you start, you are hooked!”
-Jake Bible, author of Little Dead Man.

Sanctuary Dome starts with a bang, is complicated by a kiss, and ends with a promise. This is a YA zombie love story like no other.”
-Jennifer Brozek, author of Apocalypse Girl Dreaming

“A smart zombie novel with relatable characters you’ll be rooting for until the end.”
-Emerian Rich, author of Night’s Knights Vampire Series

Sanctuary Dome is fast-paced zombie sci-fi on a prison planet of the dying and the undead.”
-Stephen North, author of Beneath the Mask

“H.E. Roulo transports the reader to an eerie, futuristic environment. Her efficiency of prose will absorb readers of all ages. Macabre, frightening, but always hopeful.”
-Philip E. Carroll, author of Shooting Stars

HE ROULO 1

H.E. Roulo is a Pacific Northwest writer of science-fiction, horror, and fantasy. She earned a BA in English from the University of Idaho and is an SFWA member. Her science-fiction novel Fractured Horizon was a Parsec Award Finalist. She’s had dozens of short stories published in anthologies and magazines and was the winner of the 2009 Wicked Women Writers contest. Recent publications include Fantasy magazine (Women Destroy Fantasy special issue), Nature Futures 2, and Blood Type: An Anthology of Vampire SF on the Cutting Edge. She co-hosted the author interview podcast Podioracket.com from 2009 to 2012.

 

Plague Master: Rebel Infection is now available on Amazon!

Book Review: Shanti the Sadist Heaven by Alessandro Manzetti

Review of Shanti the Sadist Heaven by Alessandro Manzetti By Chantal Boudreau

I agreed to review this book because after reading Naraka, I considered myself a fan of Alessandro’s.  His stylistic approach appeals to me, his use of vivid graphic imagery like extreme visual artwork laid out in written word.  And I expected after the gory and at times brutal story in the first book I reviewed, I’d be prepared for what Shanti would have to offer.

I was wrong.

While Naraka messes with your mind, makes you squirm and sometimes makes your belly turn, Shanti is a solid gut-punch.  It leaves you breathless with a sour taste in your mouth, and the need to look away, like witnessing a horrific accident.  I found the story so disturbing I had difficulty returning to the book after putting it down and I’ve read some pretty extreme adult horror.

I don’t know if it was the obvious loss of innocence at the beginning of the story, clear victims of a dystopian society gone wrong (vs the prisoner/prison setting), or the fact that it seemed more like something that could be happening somewhere in the darkest corners of our current world (compared to the outer-worldly space setting of Naraka) but the horror proved harder to face.  Or maybe it’s me – maybe I’ve softened in the interim – but I found Shanti a challenge to get through and I’m not sure what that says about me or this book. This just went places I didn’t want to go.

One of the notable points of the book, in addition to Alessandro’s both bewitching and bewildering style, is his strong characterization.  I appreciated the way he used sisters, Juliette and Justine, as contrasts for one another, and Madame Desroches is convincingly cruel and devilishly mercenary.  These are only a few of the myriad of colourful characters within.

Would I recommend this book? Well, that would highly depend on the reader.  This is not a book for everyone, especially not those faint of heart. I asked myself how something could be so beautiful and so horrible at the same time.  It is adult horror at is most graphic and grim, filled with the taboo and shocking to the point some would consider it “torture-porn”. If that doesn’t put you off, this might just be the book for you.

 

Press Release: The Sequels

Fanbase Press is thrilled to announce that the upcoming trade paperback of its four-issue series, The Sequels, will feature a foreword written by Andre Gower (The Monster Squad, Wolfman’s Got Nards – A Documentary).  The team is also revealing the brand new trade paperback cover, featuring the combined artwork of series cover artist Don Aguillo and interior artists/colorists Val Halvorson and Bobby Timony!

The Sequels is a creator-owned series that – in the height of ‘80s nostalgia – dares to question whether our grasp on the past is endangering our future.  It is written by Norm Harper (Eisner Award-nominated Rikki, The Naughty List) illustrated and colored by Val Halvorson and Harvey Award-nominated Bobby Timony (The Night Owls, The Simpsons), flatted by Deanna Poppe, lettered by Oceano Ransford (A Geek’s Guide to Cross-Stitch, Eisner Award-nominated Rikki), and features cover art by Don Aguillo (Rise, Winter, Isugid Pinoy!).

“We’re extremely honored to have Andre’s contribution to the collected trade paperback,” says Fanbase Press President Bryant Dillon.  “Given the thoughtful examination of nostalgia in The Sequels, Andre’s unique perspective and incredible impact to our collective nostalgia for the ‘80s make his contribution truly special.”

Series Synopsis:

Remember the ‘80s? Avery, Gwen, Russell, and Dakota will never forget.  As children, they each experienced unique adventures . . . saving the life of a sentient robot, partying with an intergalactic alien, battling the likes of vampires and werewolves, and defeating a nightmarish monster to protect imagination itself.  Now, 30 years later, they’re directionless adults, still obsessed with their pasts. When a mysterious figure brings the group together to cope with their experiences, will they be prepared to live out the “sequels” to their childhood adventures?

Issues #1-4 of the comic book series are being released digitally through ComiXology, and the series’ collected trade paperback will be released on July 22, 2019The Sequels trade paperback is currently available for pre-order at www.TheSequelsComic.com and through the Fanbase Press website (www.fanbasepress.com).  Pre-orders made by May 1, 2019, will receive an exclusive set of prints (representing each of the four covers) illustrated by Don Aguillo and signed by the entire creative team.

Founded in 2010, Fanbase Press celebrates fandoms and creates new ones! As a comic book publisher and geek culture website, Fanbase Press produces new and distinctive works, as well as daily reviews, interviews, and podcasts, that span the pop culture spectrum and give voice to the themes, ideals, and people that make geekdom so exceptional.

Fanbase Press’ previous titles – including the 2018 Eisner Award-nominated Quince, the 2019 IPPY Award-winning A Geek’s Guide to Cross-Stitch: Journeys in Space, the 2014 Bram Stoker Award-nominated Fearworms: Selected Poems, The Margins, Hero Hotel, The Gamma Gals, Something Animal, Identity Thief, The Arcs, and Penguins vs. Possums – are available online at www.fanbasepress.com and on Amazon, as well as digitally through ComiXology.

As a special note, Andre Gower’s latest project, Wolfman’s Got Nards – A Documentary, explores the relationship a dedicated audience (including celebrities and filmmakers) has with The Monster Squad. This documentary takes an in-depth look into the film’s conception, response, cult status, and revival. Through interviews with the cast, crew, screenwriters, directors, academics, and original reviewers, as well as through never-before-seen footage, it turns the lens on an audience of self-proclaimed misfits who have kept The Monster Squad alive for more than thirty years.  More information may be found at www.thesquaddoc.com and on Facebook and Twitter (@thesquaddoc).