Book Review: Death Masks by Kim Richards

Review Written by Matt Marovich

Content warning, there will be a non-graphic discussion of sexual assault and rape in this review.

I finished Death Masks by Kim Richards a few days ago and I’ve been rolling it around in my head, trying to decide what I thought about it. 

After some thought, my take is that Death Masks has two stories, one I enjoyed quite a bit and one I didn’t care for very much at all.

Both stories revolve around Bill. On the surface, Bill is a fairly stereotypical character if you asked for a standard model “IT professional”: out of shape, overweight, plays video games on his lunch break, not much for physical activity, or being outwardly social. If that was all there was to him, he’d be a fairly boring, one-dimensional character, one we have seen in countless other books and media featuring awkward, doughy men who have grown up and managed to make their adolescent computer nerdery their profession. However, what saves Bill from being a caricature is the emotional realism that Kim Richards uses when writing him, in particular regarding his relationship with his girlfriend Dixie, and that is the story, their relationship, that I enjoyed most in this book.

Dixie is the opposite of Bill in pretty much every way. Smaller where Bill is large, conventionally attractive for a woman while Bill is kind of a slob, Dixie is a nurse at the local hospital, a profession that works with people while her boyfriend works with machines. She’s an artist, primarily working with sculpture and plaster casts, and athletic in that she works out, goes jogging, and enjoys social dancing, particularly salsa, while Bill would rather drink a six pack, eat some pizza, and shoot pixel zombies. If Bill was true to the stereotype, he might try to passive-aggressively keep Dixie from the things that she enjoys that he doesn’t care about, particularly if they could threaten his relationship with her (like the dancing), but instead Richards writes him in a mature fashion, that even if he isn’t into the things Dixie enjoys, he supports her love of them because they bring her happiness and feed her soul. Early in the book, in chapter three, we have a great example of this as they go “dancing”, or Dixie goes dancing and Bill watches her. While he does acknowledge the occasional pang of jealousy, the focus is more on enjoying Dixie’s happiness and wanting to support her (it doesn’t hurt that she’s gorgeous and it’s a turn on for him to watch her dance). The same goes for her art; she has her own space in the basement that he remarks could make a good home office for him so he could do work from home more easily, but that would mean impacting her personal artistic space and he’d rather not. Seeing the consideration he pays her in regards to the things she enjoys (and the fact that she never gives him crap about his own interests that she doesn’t share) was a nice change of pace and a nice break from an otherwise stereotypical character.

The other aspect of their relationship that made me enjoy this part of the book was how Bill tries to support Dixie’s mental illness. Dixie suffers from depression and anxiety, primarily linked to particular times of the year such as fall and winter as well as Christmas specifically. This illness impacts how she interacts with Bill, at times being snappish or making things more difficult as he tries to navigate the complexities of her illness, and impacts her life in all of the myriad ways that depression and anxiety can. Not once does Bill treat her with anything less than respect and understanding and while he does worry about her, he doesn’t make his concern her problem so that she has to manage him managing her illness. He speaks with her counselor to strategize on ways he might be able to help her and he tries to be thoughtful about her condition. As someone who has had people close to him deal with such illnesses, watching Bill do his best to be helpful and take care of Dixie felt familiar and very real in a personal way. 

While those were the main aspects of Death Masks that I enjoyed, the rest of the plot wasn’t to my tastes.

The main conflict of the other plotline of Death Masks is Bill’s interactions with an unknown assailant. Early in the book, Bill has what might be a very minor heart attack and it scares him into action to try to better his health. In order to do this, he decides to take up walking (with the intent to move up to running when he’s in better condition to) and goes to the nearby park. While on his first foray into fitness, he comes across a scene on one of the paths: a thin figure hunched over the fallen body of a young man, another jogger. Thinking the man on the ground is being robbed, Bill tries to intercede but despite the size difference, the attacker being much smaller, Bill is quickly overcome and rendered unconscious. Before he is clubbed over the head with a rock, he looks up into the face of his attacker and sees a skeletal visage looking back at him. 

We as the reader are given glimpses into the attacker’s mind, a serial killer who uses a syringe full of some unnamed drug that almost instantaneously paralyzes those injected with it. We later learn that the killer targets men of a particular standard of physical attractiveness, stalking them from the bushes of the park’s jogging trails before ambushing them and taking them away to be buried alive while still paralyzed. Throughout the book we come to learn the attacker’s motivations, that they are seeking revenge for childhood wrongs perpetrated on them by their brother and his friends, a gang of drug-using thugs and criminals who sexually assault the attacker, first as what they were told was a gang initiation and later on just because they could. 

Can I just say that I am extremely tired of this use of sexual violence in fiction? Need to have a woman with a traumatic backstory? Have her be raped. Got to give a killer a reason for revenge? They were sexually assaulted. Have to put the female main character in a situation where they are in harm’s way? Have the threat be the explicit potential of them being raped. The use of something so serious feels lazy and, to me, disrespectful. With how traumatic real-life sexual violence can be, using it as the defining moment for why the villain is evil feels like it cheapens the reality of it for me and, depending on your reading, might not speak kindly to victims of such experiences. 

That said, the parts of the book that involve the park stalker struck me as unrealistic. A drug that works the same on people of various body types, regardless of how much they are given, without some suffering side-effects from the drug and nearly instantaneously? The police, when they are involved, are needlessly antagonistic and almost painfully disinterested at times. Despite the fact that the killer racks up a nine-victim body count, there is no rising consciousness of people of a particular gender going missing after visiting the park until very late in the book and, even then, the police are almost entirely dismissive of anything Bill has to say. Finally, in the end, Bill realizes the true identity of the killer when he hears their voice, recognizing it, but somehow fails to do so in their first encounter when he hears the killer speak. The twist of the reveal of the killer’s identity wasn’t really much of a twist and despite the killer’s earlier martial prowess, sweeping Bill off his feet, pinning him to the ground, and clubbing him unconscious, none of that was apparent in the final confrontation. 

My other criticism of the book is that the ending felt rushed, the final showdown only a few pages long.

While I feel like Death Masks started out strong, with Bill and Dixie being complex and well-rounded characters, the killer felt flat and disinteresting in comparison. With the rushed ending and some plot details that seemed inserted only to provide ineffective blinds for the killer’s true identity, the unfortunate impression I’m left with is one of a missed opportunity. 

Book Review: The Bonecarver (The Night Weaver Series) by Monique Snyman

Review Written by Matt Marovich

Content Warning: Sexual Assault, Threats of Rape

Before I begin I need to admit that when I chose The Bonecarver to review I wasn’t aware that it was book two in a series and, if I had, I wouldn’t have picked it up having not read the first. While this book doesn’t rely too heavily on the plot from the book before, recurring characters and their past history with the main character might have resonated and made more impact if I had their complete backstory.

The Bonecarver is the story of Rachel Cleary, a teenage girl attending Ridge Crest High in the small New England town of Shadow Grove. Despite its small and sleepy nature, the town of Shadow Grove is one of mysteries that hide a darkness beneath the surface, where terrible events happen but are covered up by those in charge. Only recently recovering from an encounter with a being called the Night Weaver, responsible for the deaths and disappearances of several children, Shadow Grove has moved on in its silent fashion, ignoring the strangeness and tragedy that had befallen it.

We are introduced to Rachel as she is attempting to take her SATs when a panic attack forces her outside, abandoning the test. While in the bathroom to calm down with a small amount of privacy, she helps save her classmate Mercia Holstein from an epileptic seizure. During this encounter, Rachel finds a small, carved figurine of bone in Mercia’s likeness, her pose and expression identical to her in the midst of her seizure. After this, more terrible things begin to happen to people around the town, each preceded by the appearance of a bone carving of the victim in the midst of an accident. After the discovery of a boneless corpse at her school and a frightening encounter with a strange fae, Rachel’s investigation of the threat takes her into the Fae world in search of allies and, when she returns home, she finds Shadow Grove in chaos as she confronts the creature known as the Bonecarver.

The parts of The Bonecarver that I enjoyed most were some of the descriptions. Monique Snyman does a good job of painting pictures of what she would like you to see and experience, often using all five senses to bring you into the scene. Settings are vivid, movement and action are easily imagined, and her take on classic fae like the Sluagh are memorable. The final climactic scene between Rachel and the Bonecarver is particularly theatrical.

That said The Bonecarver didn’t work for me in several ways. The first half of the book felt slow and stilted, taking quite some time to get going (although the second half of the book flowed much more quickly and felt like the actual story she wanted to tell). Discoveries felt awkwardly placed rather than organically made as if Rachel were stumbling through everything by luck, rather than any kind of skill.

While descriptions were vivid, they sometimes didn’t make realistic sense. For instance, we are told that the highschool was originally a “tiny schoolhouse with three classrooms and an outhouse” but has grown into a large, U-shaped building complete with bell tower, auditorium, cafeteria, indoor swimming pool, and enough classroom space to accommodate three thousand students, all of which were made possible by donations from generous alumni. However, despite the influx of money that made such expansion possible, large portions of the school have fallen into disrepair and “quickly [became] forgotten” because they aren’t used (for instance, Rachel notes that the pool was not filled at any point since she started attending high school). Why would a town waste money expanding a school in such a way without the population to warrant it, only to let it become decrepit? If the town received enough money to expand in such a way, did the money then dry up so that they couldn’t afford maintenance on it? Later the story takes us to the local hospital whose parking lot is full of cars placed there by the town council to make the hospital look busy, only they have begun to rust and fall apart, giving the parking lot more of a junkyard feel. Why is the hospital being busy important? How does the decision to fill the parking lot in such a way, when there are no people to accompany those cars, actually do anything to reach the stated goal of appearing “busy”?

The impression I received reading The Bonecarver was that there were often certain settings and scenes that Snyman wanted and so came up with explanations for them regardless of how much sense those explanations made. In order to have a long, protracted chase scene through the highschool, the highschool has to be large enough to accommodate it (including a ventilation system large enough for people to crawl through), despite a small New England town theoretically not needing a school that big. Rachel finds the boneless corpse in the boiler room of the old school house, which is described equally as being part of the physical structure of the modern high school but also considered a distinctly separate part of the high school because of its disuse, but why would the original school house have a boiler room when it had no plumbing? These are just two examples but this felt like a problem throughout.

Another main issue I took with the book was the almost casual use of sexual assault and threat of sexual violence. While in the Fae world, Rachel is sexually assaulted when a soldier sneaks up and grabs her from behind, fondling her breast in the process, before explaining how he’s going to rape her. She’s able to free herself and escape but the whole scene lacks any emotional punch; the fact that a high school girl was able to extricate herself from an adult, professional soldier with a single backwards thrown elbow makes it seem like the scene was written more to provide Rachel a horse to ride to advance the plot. In that case, threatening to have her raped feels like a cheap gimmick to up the danger of the scene that could have had as much gravitas without it.

We also encounter Nova, a king in the Fae world and brother to Orion, the ally that Rachel goes in search of. While he is present in the book, we learn that he has threatened to rape her in the past but despite this they almost have a cordial interaction when she helps him search for something he lost. However, when confronted with his brother, Nova sexually assaults Rachel in front of him by licking the side of her face and telling Orion what he wants to do to her, using this threat of sexual violence to force Orion to agree to leave the Fae world. Again, this feels like this happens because of the math that if violence is bad, then sexual violence must be worse, when it was completely unnecessary for the scene.

It does make a certain amount of sense when you consider that Rachel Cleary and The Bonecarver definitely fall into that subrenre of dark fantasy YA fiction characterized by Twilight, of the young female protagonist who doesn’t know her own attractiveness but most male characters desire. If Rachel’s worth stems from her unrealized beauty and physical body, then it makes sense that threats to her would be based around the thing being valued. Ultimately, this is the main conflict of The Bonecarver and the primary impetus for why the threat of the Bonecarver exists, which is a sad commentary on why these male characters find her to be important.

Ultimately The Bonecarver didn’t work for me but if you’re a fan of YA dark fantasy focusing around a female protagonist meant to be strong, overcoming challenges and defeating threats, then it may be for you.

Book Review: Shelter for the Damned by Mike Thorn


Review by Daphne Strasert

Content Warnings: violence, gore

Mark is a troubled teen in typical white suburbia. He gets in fights, sneaks out of the house, and smokes with his friends. He doesn’t fit into his parents’ ideal life of picket fences, neat lean lawns, and bland dinners. But teenage rebellion takes a turn for the dark when Mark discovers The Shack. At first just an oasis of peace, The Shack begins to ask more and more of Mark in return. Mark is helpless to resist the twisted, violent desires The Shack places in him.

Shelter for the Damned is a slow burn descent into madness. Mark is led into a world of violent reactionism until he finds himself too far to climb out. It’s horrifying to watch his descent. Even as he commits terrible acts, he is numb to the effect of it.

Thorn fearlessly writes the awkwardness of the teenage experience. It’s painful to look at sometimes. Teenagers don’t always make logical decisions; they are ruled by hormones and ego. Thorn manages to convey this well.

Mark is plagued by futility. He is dragged along by the plot, even as he is the one making decisions. It’s a great metaphor for the lack of control teens have over their own lives (externally and internally). Mark’s parents repeatedly ask him why he does what he does, something that he can’t answer. They beg him to change his behavior, which he never does. It’s a familiar feeling that I had while reading. From an outside perspective, it’s infuriating to watch Mark’s downward spiral.

Thorn absolutely nails his portrayal of white suburbia in the early 2000s (I should know, I was there): the eternal expanse of identical houses, the hidden poverty, and abuse, the teens scrabbling for a sense of individuality in a world of carbon copies. In the midst of this conformity, The Shack stands in sharp relief. It’s easy to see why Mark is so drawn to it, even without supernatural influences.

Thorn’s writing brings a literary element to the horror genre. His descriptions are vivid and realistic. He tends toward psychological horror rather than a gorefest. Not to say there isn’t gore, but Thorn treats it tastefully.

I would have liked to see Thorn explore the confusion of whether Mark was insane or possessed or plagued by an eldritch force. He introduced this in the middle of the book but left it unaddressed. I also think he could have played out more the effect each of the murders had on Mark’s psyche. Instead, Mark was too ready to move on from events.

While Shelter for the Damned stars teenagers, I would not classify it as Young Adult. It is a solid horror novel. I enjoyed reading it. Thorn’s writing is a joy to read. If you like supernatural dread, you’ll enjoy Shelter for the Damned.

You may also enjoy Mike Thorn’s short story collection Darkest Hours.

Book Review: Unsafe Words by Loren Rhoads

Review by Daphne Stasert

Content Warnings: Drug Use, Sex, Violence, Death, Suicide, Slavery, Assisted Suicide, Homophobia, Sex Work

With Unsafe Words, Loren Rhoads presents probably the most diverse set of stories that I’ve yet reviewed. Unsafe Words is not a collection of strictly horror, but explores fantasy and science fiction as well. Throughout, however, runs a thread of unease. Rhoads explores the darker sides of all her subjects. Regardless of whether the tales are set in a world of advanced technology, magic, aliens, or bad drug trips, Unsafe Words doesn’t flinch away from her examination of the human condition.

Drugs, sex, and music feature prominently throughout the stories. Frequently, they weave together. Drugs tint character reliability, blurring the line between reality and hallucination. Characters use drugs to escape their situation, to enhance it, and simply to exist. Rhoads attaches no value judgement to the use, but uses it to enrich the stories. Sex, in all its trappings, is a strong taboo for most readers. But Rhoads doesn’t shy from its use. Sex is good, it’s bad, it’s a fact of life for her characters. It’s a means to an end or an end all its own.  Music is a driving force, akin to hypnotism, drugs, or religion. Music washes over the characters like a drug high. It transcends their motivations. Characters are willing to die for music, kill for it.

Drugs, sex, and music may be the vehicle, but many of Rhoads’s stories primarily deal with the concept of love—new, mature, and dying. When does infatuation cross from curiosity to devotion? What would you do for someone that you love? Who or what would you betray? What do you do when grief runs out and turns instead to exhaustion and despair?

These stories are uncomfortable at times, but they’re meant to be that way. They force the reader to explore their own values and assumptions about the human condition. Even within the horror narratives, terror takes a backseat to introspection.

Rhoads revisits tired tropes through a new lens. New worlds and ideas turn familiar stories on their heads. She seamlessly includes science fiction and fantasy world building to freshen up stories. These worlds don’t take over the story, but serve as a unique backdrop.

If I have one complaint about Unsafe Words, it is simply that some of the stories are too short. Rhoads creates complex, immersive worlds that are busting with stories, but only explores a tiny portion of them, sometimes cutting off the story before it really even gets started. So many of these could be expanded into full novels and I hope that Rhoads takes that step in the future.

If you have a wide range of stories with excellent writing, you’ll enjoy Unsafe Words by Loren Rhoads.

Book Review: Darkest Hours by Mike Thorn

Darkest Hours is a collection of horror short stories by Mike Thorn.

Content Warnings: gore

Darkest Hours presents a combination of realistic and supernatural stories, running the absolute gamut of subjects. The variety in stories is astounding. Thorn succeeds with visceral, gory body horror as well as psychological tension and cerebral, philosophical horror. He addresses traditional tropes and creates entirely new nightmares for his readers.

Darkest Hours gets off to a stomach-churning start with “Hair”. I’m not going to lie, I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to make it through the rest of the book if it was going to all be like that. Fortunately for me, the following stories didn’t go after my gag reflex in such a way. “Long Man” and “Economy These Days” were stand-out performers in an already excellent line-up. “Long Man” took a traditional childhood fear and made it the sort of nightmare that sticks with you. “Economy These Days” was a unique and brutal look at modern struggles.

There is an academic leaning in some of the stories—one that can, at times, be a little patronizing. But Thorn writes the characters well, clearly drawing on personal experiences in university and graduate life. No matter what, Thorn keeps all of his stories short and tight, starting right in the action and leaving just enough room to build to the climax. His endings are superb, clinching the story at just the right moment.

Darkest Hours is a wonderful introduction to Mike Thorn as a writer. He’s created a wonderful collection of riveting stories. If you like small bites of horror, please pick Darkest Hours up.

THE BIGFOOT FILES | Chapter Seventeen: Bigfoot Trail

bigfootfiles

(Editor’s note: This review contains major spoilers.)

Bigfoot Trail is a horror novel by Eric S. Brown released in 2019 by Severed Press. Brown is an author who loves writing about Sasquatch, and Bigfoot Trail is another entry into his lengthy catalog of cryptid fiction.

Bigfoot Trail

Bigfoot Trail is a grisly tale about campers, hikers, and forest rangers who are slaughtered in the woods by a group of Sasquatch. The only wrinkle in the story is caused by one of the hikers, a Wiccan named Jade. She convinces the other hikers to participate in a summoning ritual to call forth the “spirit of the trail.”

Flames shoot up from the campfire during the ritual, but Jade is not sure what she summoned. The Sasquatch and the hikers find out soon enough as another mythic creature from Cherokee folklore joins the fray.

Bigfoot Trail is basically a B-movie creature feature, heavy on gore and action and light on exposition and character development. The book gave me a Friday the 13th vibe with the Sasquatch attacks reminiscent of a Jason Voorhees killing spree. Like Friday the 13th, the only question left to answer in Bigfoot Trail is who, if anyone, will survive the night?

NEXT UP: Chapter Eighteen: The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then the Bigfoot. I review the 2018 film directed by Robert D. Krzykowski.


Lionel Ray Green is a horror and fantasy writer, an award-winning newspaper journalist, and a U.S. Army gulf war veteran living in Alabama. His short stories have appeared in more than two dozen anthologies, magazines, and ezines, including The Best of Iron Faerie Publishing 2019; America’s Emerging Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers: Deep South; and Alabama’s Emerging Writers. His short story “Scarecrow Road” won the WriterWriter 2018 International Halloween Themed Writing Competition, All Hallows’ Prose. Drop by https://lionelraygreen.com/ and say hello.


MORE BIGFOOT BOOK REVIEWS …

THE BIGFOOT FILES | Chapter Fifteen: Night of the Sasquatch

THE BIGFOOT FILES | Chapter Five: Wood Ape

THE BIGFOOT FILES | Chapter Four: ‘The Road Best Not Taken’

THE BIGFOOT FILES | Chapter Three: Swamp Monster Massacre

THE BIGFOOT FILES | Chapter Two: Dweller

Book Review: Arterial Bloom edited by Mercedes M. Yardley

Book Review: Arterial Bloom edited by Mercedes M. Yardley
Reviewed by Daphne Strasert

Unthemed anthologies are always a bit of a gamble for the reader. Without a common thread tying the stories together, you can’t be sure that each story will hold your attention the same way. Arterial Bloom, edited by Mercedes M. Yardley and published by Crystal Lake, may be unthemed, but there is still a common core to the stories: quality. The writing in each and every story is lush and literary. The story themes vary from whimsical to harsh realism, but they are each gripping in their own way.

The Stone Door by Jimmy Bernard

This story about three sisters trying to live their lives in the place of an ever-present threat is tense and dark. Bernard uses the terror of the unknown to great effect. The story is better for being underexplained. It’s plenty terrifying as it is. A sense of hopelessness creeps in between the words as the sisters’ fight to survive keeps them from truly living.

Dog (Does Not) Eat Dog by Grant Longstaff

Longstaff uses his story to take a harsh look at interpersonal relationships during the apocalypse. What does it take to survive? Do you really want to survive if it means losing humanity? His exploration of what hardship and hopelessness may bring out in some people is frightening in its realism.

Kudzu Stories by Linda J. Marshall

Marshall turns a short story even shorter, weaving together a series of stories set in the same small town. With the backdrop of the Mississipi river, Kudzu Stories has a distinctly southern feel. Her writing conjures up hot, humid nights and crickets in the dark, with a dash of something more sinister waiting in the dense kudzu. Truly one of my favorites in this anthology.

Dead Letters by Christopher Barzak

With Dead Letters, Barzak creates a unique and heartfelt story about grief and love. I can’t give much detail without spoiler several marvelous twists, but rest assured, it’s a deeply moving and personal story that explores emotions I didn’t even know I had.

The Darker Side of Grief by Naching T Kassa

Kassa is one of my favorite authors to see in any anthology. The Darker Side of Grief is my favorite work from her so far. It’s a dark tale of a boy haunted by the death of his mother that explores the magnitude of childhood bravery. It’s traditionally scary in a way that few other stories in the anthology are.

Welcome to Autumn by Daniel Crow

Crow’s story of a missing artist and the forces working against him is twisty and trippy. His concept is fascinating and something I would love to learn more about. More than that, the small setting he uses allows him to tell the story through characters in a unique and layered way.

Still Life by Kelli Owen

Still Life is a painting made with words. The vivid imagery is nothing like I’ve ever read before. The story itself winds slowly into you with hints of terror that lurk on the sidelines. It’s a beautiful slow burn with a shocking ending.

Three Masks by Armand Rosamilia

Rosamilia tells several stories at once in Three Masks, showcasing the way two people may come to share their lives in infinite ways. Even with parallels running between each possible storyline, he manages to capitalize on shock value. You’re never sure of what will happen. It’s a literary piece that pushes the boundaries of traditional story telling.

Doodlebug by John Boden

Doodlebug tells the story of an arsonist. It’s a slow burn (ha) with a slithering sense of dread as you wait for what horror will happen next. Boden dives into the psyche of the main character, turning her psychology into the true star of the show. It’s a deeply creepy story not for any overt terror, but for the exploration that there could be any sort of monster hiding behind the façade of a human being.

Happy Pills by Todd Keisling

I loved Happy Pills. Keisling’s story presents a man who will try anything if it will ease the absence of feeling inside him. The description of anxiety and depression is hauntingly visceral and so accurate that it hit home for me in a powerful way. The writing is excellent, with vivid descriptions that match the Lovecraftian tone of the piece.

What Remained of Her by Jennifer Loring

What Remained of Her follows a woman’s desperate search for answers in the disappearance of her sister. The build and suspense in this story is great. The ending is nothing like you would suspect. Loring manages to create a gripping mystery worthy of a novel in a short story format.

Blue Was Her Favorite Color by Dino Parenti

Blue was Her Favorite Color honestly made me shudder as I read it. The story follows a father as he watches the grieving process of his young daughter. Parenti took his time in laying the groundwork for a truly horrifying and unexpected reveal. The creeping horror of this tale will be with me for a long time to come.

In the Loop by Ken Liu

Liu’s story is a masterpiece of technological horror. In the Loop tells the story of a woman who programs machines of war. While it could technically be considered science fiction, the truth of his story matter is much closer to the reality of today. In the Loop isn’t traditional horror, relying instead of the horror found in ethical decisions made every day.

The Making of Mary by Steven Pirie

In The Making of Mary, Pirie turns the language of science into a love letter. This story of Gaia guised in mortal flesh is more of a romance than a horror story, but it’s filled with such beautiful imagery and heartfelt characters, that it belongs alongside the rest of the writing in this anthology.

Mouths Filled with Seawater by Jonathan Cosgrove

Mouths Filled with Seawater is a complicated story woven through the mind of unreliable narrator. It’s hard to know exactly what is going on, but the confusion just adds to the concern of just what the narrator is capable of doing. Cosgrove storytelling is unique and perfectly suited to the tortured tale he presented.

Rotten by Carina Bissett

Rotten is a horror tale in a glossy fairy-tale wrapping. The story of a girl coming of age under her mother’s withering guidance is dark and painful. Bissett’s characters are sinister in the best way imaginable. They come to life under the sharp and vivid language. The series of snippets in the character’s life are each the perfect bite.

I was impressed with Arterial Bloom. Each author brought their absolute best to the table and the editor pulled together a collection of wildly different stories into a coherent piece. I recommend it whole-heartedly to fans of both horror and literature.

Looking for more anthologies? Try Tales from the Lake: Volume 5, Monsters of Any Kind, or Lost Highways.

THE BIGFOOT FILES | Chapter Fifteen: Night of the Sasquatch

bigfootfiles

(Editor’s note: This review contains major spoilers.)

Night of the Sasquatch by Keith Luethke is a horror story about a family’s encounter with a clan of Bigfoot. The interesting wrinkle in this entry into cryptid fiction is Luethke tells the story from the points of view of the family and the Bigfoot.

night of the sasquatch cover.jpg

Night of the Sasquatch begins as the typical cabin-in-the-woods trope with newly married couple Wein and Stacy traveling to a mountain cabin for a honeymoon weekend with their five-month-old daughter Valery. During a grocery stop on the way, a stranger appears just long enough to warn Stacy to “stay out of the woods.”

The story soon shifts to the clan of Bigfoot alarmed by the arrival of humans. Living in a nearby cave, the Bigfoot characters have names and distinct personalities, and the males are engaged in a power struggle for leadership of the clan.

Members of the Bigfoot clan watch the human family in the cabin and try to warn them off with rocks. Their action prompts a call to police and a detective’s decision to watch the cabin for the remainder of the night.

The Bigfoot clan members argue over what to do about the humans. Should they leave or attack? Their decision fuels the action-packed climax, ending with acts of self-preservation and humanity in the pulse-pounding finale.

Night of the Sasquatch is an entertaining break for Bigfoot fans and takes less than an hour to read.

NEXT UP: Chapter Sixteen: Something in the Woods. I review the 2015 film directed by Tony Gibson and David D. Ford.


Lionel Ray Green is a horror and fantasy writer, an award-winning newspaper journalist, and a U.S. Army gulf war veteran living in Alabama. His short stories have appeared in more than two dozen anthologies, magazines, and ezines, including The Best of Iron Faerie Publishing 2019; America’s Emerging Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers: Deep South; and Alabama’s Emerging Writers. His short story “Scarecrow Road” won the WriterWriter 2018 International Halloween Themed Writing Competition, All Hallows’ Prose. Drop by https://lionelraygreen.com/ and say hello.