Book Review: Broken on the Inside by Phil Sloman

Broken on the Inside by Phil Sloman

4/5 stars!

Broken on the Inside (Black Shuck Books) is a collection of five very dark short stories by Phil Sloman. All start from a point of psychological turmoil, the mind building its own madness which then manifests into something physically and disturbingly real.

The lead story, “Broken on the Inside, is an example of the power of mind control and the unintended consequences of the manipulation of others, in this case murder. “Discomfort Food will probably put you off your burger and chips. “The Man Who Fed the Foxes and “There Was an Old Man (be warned, there are some gross moments!) are accounts of mental breakdown in the starkest detail whilst “Virtually Famous flips and distorts reality.

Yes, it is a small collection, but Broken on the Inside packs a big punch. Strong, powerful and wonderfully dark, this is high quality writing and I would happily recommend it to anyone and everyone. 

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Book Review – Darker Days: A Collection of Dark Fiction by Kenneth W. Cain

Darker Days A Collection of Dark Fiction, by Kenneth Cain

I’ve always enjoyed reading a good scary tale, and in my opinion short stories make the best medium for leading the reader through the “valley of fear.” Don’t get me wrong, I have enjoyed many horror novels over the years, but my favorite stories have always been short ones. That’s largely because they, by necessity, get right to the point and waste no time leading the reader right smack dab into the middle of the monster’s den.

Darker Days, by Kenneth Cain, is a great collection of tales that any fan of horror fiction would enjoy. There’s something in this book for everyone. The subject matter of the tales therein includes ghosts, cosmic horror, zombies, vampires, weird creatures, aliens, kaiju, and demons. While there were stories I enjoyed more than others, there wasn’t a single dud in this collection.

As I read through Cain’s stories, I found myself enjoying his style of writing. He does a good job of describing the setting and action without a lot of needless exposition. One thing I’ve never cared for is when a writer drones on for two pages describing what could be summed up in two sentences, and Cain avoids that nicely.

Probably my favorite story in the collection is “By the Crescent Moon. This one tells the tale of Mike, who has just moved into a house in the North Carolina countryside. The story works for me in several ways. There’s the trope of the dark, foggy night, with something strange lurking out there. It ties in with folklore, especially Welsh legends that touched the New World. Throw in a creepy old woman who possesses knowledge of the legends and lore of the area, and who tries to warn Mike against venturing out into the hills on that foggy night, and you’ve got the setting for a really creepy tale. Of course, Mike shuns her advice and things go to hell fairly quickly. But hey, if people acted with good common sense and clear rational thought, there would be no scary story. There would just be the tale of the guy who heeded advice and went back home, locked the door, and went to bed.  And who wants to read that story?

All in all, Darker Days is a solid set of stories that should entertain most any horror enthusiast.  For my part, I look forward to reading more of Cain’s work.  Next time you’re looking for a good scary read, you won’t go wrong grabbing a copy of this book.

Book Review: Twerk by Isobel Blackthorn

Twerk by Isobel Blackthorn

Reviewed by Chantal Boudreau

When this title came up on the review list, I was more than a little intrigued.  Adding sexy to horror can make for an interesting mix.

I have to be honest–in the past when I’ve read horror with an erotic element, it tends to be on the vulgar side without stylistic sophistication, so I was pleased to see a writing style with this story that exceeded my expectations (Although it wasn’t exactly delicate in its approach and some of the “terminology” and metaphors made me chuckle.) It captures the pole dancing experience in great detail, giving it a sense of being tangible. It also carries the perspective over into the realm of social media–a reflection of real life.

I appreciated the descriptive imagery, covering multiple senses. It allows for a freer transition from the hot physicality of lust to the cold reality of death. I enjoyed the story and it kept my interest and attention, strong in most ways. If there was one weakness I would have to say it lay in the characterization. While I felt entrenched in the plot as I read, caught up in the gritty “behind the scenes” of the dancers, I didn’t feel equally invested in the characters. Character interaction and childhood stories helped with character development, but I was still missing a sense of connection. As the story spiraled to its violent conclusion, though, this didn’t seem to matter as much.

All in all, I would recommend this as a good read, four out of five stars, particularly if you have a yen to read something very dark and a little depraved.

Book Review: Cribbins by H. R. Dixon

Review: Cribbins by H. R. Dixon

Reviewed by Chantal Boudreau

Writing this review was a real struggle or me.  I usually don’t like to write reviews heavy on the negative, nor do I like sitting on the fence.  At the same time, I felt this book was worth talking about.  For all the negative, there is a great deal of positive to be mentioned as well.

I’ll address the cons up front since most of them are at the start of the book – I almost gave up reading in Chapter 2, but I would have missed out on the better parts that followed.

The first thing that struck me was that there was too much exposition in the opening chapter, to the point of being repetitive.  I think this was presented this way to bring focus to the protagonist’s, Sophie Harrington, medical predicament, but it didn’t work for me.  I found it actually detracted from the introduction of Sophie even though the idea was interesting.  Character development was far better in Chapter 2, exploring the Sophie’s background and her relationship with her family, but the pacing was slow and it was done at the expense of story development.  This picks up in Chapter 3.

Normally I give a few small editing issues a pass as long as the story is good, but there were enough editing issues in this book that I found it distracting and I have a fairly high tolerance.

The other thing that bothered me was contrasting language – lofty language in some places where simpler language would have worked better, followed soon after by slang which added a sense of discord, and accompanied by awkward metaphors.  It felt forced and I much preferred the parts later in the book where the writing felt more natural.

With those out of the way, here are the reasons you *should* read this book.

First of all, it has a really Interesting story concept.  A supernatural, malevolent neighbour who is the cause of the protagonist’s autoimmunity seemed refreshingly novel. It’s what intrigued me about the book, why I agreed to review it, and why I kept reading past Chapter 2.

Secondly, and one of the stronger points in its favour, this story has realistic, well-rounded characters.  Sophie, her parents, her daughter, her coworkers – they’re all perfectly believable and outside the expected stereotypes.

The author offers evocative description in places – I especially like the descriptions that were kept simple but really gave you a genuine feel for what was being described (the description of her parents, for example, or her cozy bed.).  Unlike that intended for exposition, the description intended for atmosphere was natural and relatable, and the story considerably better for it.

And the two points that would probably appeal most horror fans, the villain is effectively creepy, once he is introduced, and there is a good use of psychological horror rather than relying on gore.  Some scenes are quite claustrophobic, lending an effective sense of being followed and then trapped.  I can honestly say I was scared in places.

In conclusion, if you are willing to look past the flaws in the beginning, this is a story worth reading.  I’d rate in 2.5 stars with a strong leaning towards 3 or 4 later in the book.

Book Review: Tribal Screams

Tribal Screams by Owl Goingback (Independent Legions Publishing)

5/5 stars

I have never read anything by this author before but after reading this collection, that will almost certainly change. His stories span the centuries, from the arrival of Spanish conquistadors in America, to the days of the American Civil War, to Vietnam and the present. There are stories of Native American Indian beliefs and Voodoo magic, unwary pacts with the Devil and the consequences of lives ill-spent.

I enjoyed all the stories and had more-or-less decided to award the book 4/5 stars and then I read Grass Dancer, Goingback’s Nebula Award nomination. This is a story of two brothers from the Kiowa. One goes to fight in Vietnam, the other, only 11-years-old waits for him at home. Confined to a wheelchair, he is tasked with looking after Roger’s dance regalia. I am not giving any spoilers here, but the emotion that poured out of these pages towards the end of the story was powerful. I choked up then, and am doing so now as I think about it. Very few stories have this effect on me and shows how skilful the author is. It was this story that turned the collection into one worthy of 5 stars.

Another favourite, but one chosen because of its humour, is Animal Sounds. Snapping Turtle is a medicine man fearing his power is waning as the animals disappear and his people starve. A trip to the Spirit Mountain to discover the cause of their misfortune sees him encounter cannibal skeletons. The part where he persuades each skeleton to donate a leg so he make a ladder and they then have to spend their time hopping about was wonderful.

Want a ghost story? Look no further than Last Man In Line, where a fraternity initiation ceremony leads to an encounter with the ghosts of the past in Andersonville, site of Camp Sumpter, prison to forty thousand Union soldiers.

In addition to the short stories, Goingback includes the first four chapters of his novel Coyote Rage, which is due to be published in 2019. Coyote gets up to mischief on the Great Council, intending to remove its last remaining human member, a frail old man, Luther Watie, in order to restore the supremacy of the animal kingdom. Tracking the Cherokee down to an old people’s home, Coyote is recognised by Luther …

And that’s where Goingback left it. I look forward to reading the completed version when it comes out next year.

Owl Goingback is a skilful and accomplished storyteller, a true master of his art. I will most certainly be looking out for more of his work in future.

Live Action Reviews! by Crystal Connor: The Appearance

 

liveaction

Master Imaginationist and Instagram photographer Crystal Connor is the Chief Imagineer working for the Department of Sleep Prevention’s Nightmare Division. A Washington State native she loves anything to do with monsters, bad guys (as in evil-geniuses & super-villains.  Not ‘those’ kind her mother warned her about), rogue scientific experiments, jewelry, sky-high high-heeled shoes & unreasonably priced handbags.

When she’s not terrorizing her fans and racking up frequent flyers miles by gallivanting all over the country attending fan conventions and writer’s conferences she reviews indie horror and science fiction films for both her personal blog and HorrorAddicts.net

She is also considering changing her professional title to dramatization specialist because it so much more theatrical than being a mere drama queen.

http://wordsmithcrystalconnor.com

http://www.facebook.com/notesfromtheauthor

Download your free copy of …And They All Lived Happily Ever After! from Podiobooks.com and see why the name Crystal Connor has become “A Trusted Name in Terror!” 

http://podiobooks.com/title/and-they-all-lived-happily-ever-after

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ghastly Games with Daphne Strasert: Kittens in a Blender

Why are there kittens? Why are they in a blender? Good questions, but shelve your disbelief for one moment and embrace the fact that you will be putting kittens in a blender and gleefully pressing the big red button.

Kittens in a Blender is a party game for 2-8 players (ages 8+, otherwise there are too many tears) and takes about thirty minutes to play.

Game Play

First, choose a color. The many, many kittens are divided into teams by color. Your objective is to save the kittens of your team and shred everyone else’s.

Next, shuffle the deck of cards and deal a hand to each player. Kittens in a Blender contains several types of cards for players to use: Kitten cards, Movement cards, and Blend cards. On their turn, each player must play exactly two cards.

There are three play areas: the blender, the counter, and the box. Kitten cards are played in any of these areas and moved using Move cards. If a kitten is in the blender when any player plays a Blend card, that kitten is blended and removed from the game. If a kitten is in the box when a Blend card is played, then the kitten is saved and placed under the box for safe-keeping. When all the Blend cards have been played, the players count the total number of their kittens that were saved and the person with the most wins.

Game Experience

There is a lot of cringing involved in playing Kittens in a Blender. Am I really the type of person who sends adorable kittens to their doom? After a few rounds, you get over that feeling and start murdering cats with no remorse.

The game creators seem to revel in this. Rather than supplying generic kitten cards, each one has an adorable name and picture to match. Over time, players gain attachments to certain kitties (my favorite is a bulldog-faced kitten named Princess), to the point where they will sacrifice others of their own to save a favorite.

The adorable art style underlines the macabre humor of the game. Each kitten is equally loveable and undeserving of its fate. You’re just a monster for playing this game and worse for enjoying it.

Final Thoughts

I know what you’re thinking: is Kittens in a Blender really a horror game? I guess that depends on who answers, but if you were to ask my 9 year-old cousin, my mother-in-law, or several of my more innocent friends, the idea of putting even fake kittens into a blender and hitting the button is plenty horrific. But, if that doesn’t bother you, then maybe you’re the perfect person to play the game.