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.

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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.

Book Review: Lost Highways edited by D. Alexander Ward

Roads are, by design, a space in between — between cities, between the looming wilds on either side of the pavement, or between two versions of oneself. They exist in a perpetual state of flux. Millions of people pass along highways, driving through towns and lives they will never know and through stories stranger than they can imagine.

Lost Highways is an anthology of short stories and artwork edited by D. Alexander Ward and presents 20 stories that you’ll never see from the safety of the passenger seat.

The stories are equal parts entertaining and enlightening. No two ever present the same theme, stretching the anthology’s premise of roads and highways to the limits of connectivity. Each author interpreted the theme in a novel and inspiring way.

Lost Highways was gripping throughout. It presents a wide array of styles within the horror genre: philosophical musings, psychological terror, gruesome violence, and tingling suspense. At no point did I consider a story to be predictable.

Though the anthology is superb from start to finish, several stories stood out to me while reading. “A Life that is not Mine” by Kristi Demeester presented a bleak look at life where the road is both a prison and an escape. Demeester’s writing was haunting and the prose almost lyrical. “The Heart Stops at the end of Laurel Lane” by Jess Landry (an alumni of the HorrorAddicts.net Next Great Horror Writer Contest!) straddled the line between harrowing and heart wrenching and left me reeling through each new revelation. “Outrunning the End” by Cullen Bunn was a trippy experiment in fiction that blurred the lines of reality on the page. These are my favorites, but each story is excellent in its own way and all the contributors should be commended for their work.

Overall, Lost Highways is an expertly curated collection of the best that horror has to offer. I highly recommend taking a look. If you’re especially brave, you might consider making it your companion on a long road trip.

Ghastly Games with Daphne Strasert: Werebeasts

Game Review: WereBeasts

Introduction

Do you love werewolves? Do you wish you had a game with more than just werewolves? There’s a whole world of crazy beasts out there. Werekittens, wereclowns, werezombies, weresharks, wereghosts, werehouses… Excellent.

Werebeasts is a card collecting party game for 3-10 players and takes about fifteen minutes to play.

Game Play

At the beginning, each player is secretly given two goal cards. These are the werebeasts that they will try to collect throughout the game.

During their turn, a player can accuse another player of having a specific goal card. If they guess correctly, the other is removed from the game and the player get their cards. Guess carefully, however, because if you’re wrong, you are removed from the game and the accused get your cards.

After leveraging their accusations (if any), the player then draws a card face up. Other players bid on the card using the cards in front of them. Players try to collect their assigned goals without giving away what their goals are.

Whoever has the most beasts of their goal type when the game ends wins.

Game Experience

Werebeasts is suited to younger players as a card collection game. It is also good for older audiences who want a simple party game.

You would think that it would be easy to guess what others are trying to collect. Not so. Once players know what to look for, they know how to cover their tracks. The secret to Werebeasts is to know the other players. The dynamic changes over time, making Werebeasts an increasingly difficult game of bluffs.

Werebeasts has a simple set up, with a few sets of cards and pieces. All of these are well made and exceptionally detailed. The cards are sturdy and would stand up well to a lot of play time (including by children). The art style suits the game premise, as a cross between cartoon-cute and mock horror.

Final Thoughts

Werebeasts is a good party game for a large crowd. It is a fast, easy game to learn. I thought that it would be overly simplistic, but it was surprisingly engaging.

Book Review: Things You Need by Kevin Lucia

Things You Need – Kevin Lucia
(Crystal Lake Publishing)
5/5 stars

I enjoy collections and anthologies but with so many available these days, it takes something special for a new publication to rise above the herd and Lucia has achieved that. By cleverly intertwining the individual stories with the thread of the tale of a traveling salesman, he effectively creates a story within a story which ends with a twist I did not see coming.

Johnny is a sales rep, disillusioned with his life, despairing of his future, ready to turn his .38 on himself; however, before he can commit this act, he finds himself browsing the shelves of Handy’s Pawn & Thrift in the town of Clifton Heights. This shop gives you what you need – although this might not necessarily be what you want. Each item he handles – a tape player, an old Magic Eight Ball, a phone, a word processor – takes him away to other lives, all featuring characters who are trapped in one way or another. A ghost haunts his old den in The Office, the nightmare of being trapped in rooms and hallways continues in Out of Field Theory, Scavenging and A Place for Broken and Discarded Things. In each, the main character has to face up to, or accept certain truths, much as the character of Johnny is forced to do, each tale taking him nearer to his own truth.

Johnny too is trapped, he is locked mentally into his own depression and physically in the store, with no apparent escape from either. The shopkeeper has disappeared and, between the tales, he finds himself facing never-ending corridors and suddenly-appearing trapdoors, all the while feeling an increasing desire to kill himself. This parallels the stories he reads or hears, an overarching theme which makes sense when you read Almost Home, the tale of Johnny himself, and which delivers an unexpected, and wonderfully conceived, twist.

This is Death of a Salesman written for the horror market. The stories are flawless and original, avoiding the usual, hackneyed tropes, with no weak links between them. A thoroughly enjoyable read for the longer autumnal nights.