A short story collection from Mary SanGiovanni
4/5 Star Review
Up next for Women in Horror Month, I read Mary SanGiovanni for the first time and I was quite pleased!
For those of you who don’t know, Ms. SanGiovanni has a cosmic horror podcast, Cosmic Shenanigans, on the Project Entertainment Network. For those of you like me, maybe you didn’t know about this genre – or referred to it as Lovecraftian horror. I was beyond thrilled to discover this podcast and give an actual name to this sub-genre of horror that I really enjoy. I guess I was living with my head in the sand. It was because of this podcast and listening to Ms. SanGiovanni co-host The Horror Show with Brian Keene that I decided to give one of her books a try. I love short story collections, so I thought it would be a good place to start.
Night Moves, is a beautiful collection of cosmic horror, ghost stories, and tales that are simply, other. The common thread throughout the book are the deeply human connections found in each one – fear, loss, love, and sadness. This is so important in a book where the horror can be, at times, so far beyond human comprehension that you need that connection to tether you to the fear the character is experiencing.
Like almost every anthology, some stories are stronger than others, and for me, Night Moves was no exception. The shorts that stood out for me in this collection were: The Hundred-Years’ Sleep, about loving a princess and saving the world; The Anathema Cell, about a container that does not belong in our realm; Shadow Puppets, a tale of heartbreak and closet monsters; and The Mime, about a creepy, creepy, creepy mime.
I will definitely be seeking out Mary SanGiovanni’s full-length novels to add to my TBR mountain – she is a must-read for fans of this tasty little sub-genre.
A novella by Mehitobel Wilson
5/5 Star Review
If I am nothing else, I am consistent! For my second Women in Horror Month read I chose another ghost story… of sorts.
Mollie Chandler has almost completed her training to become a psychopomp – an entity that helps souls to move on to the afterlife. She has one final test that she must complete: Spend one night at the Blue Alice, the most haunted house in the Commonwealth, to come to understand the lives of past residents in order to prevent them from becoming ghosts and haunting the home in the future. If Mollie should fail her test, if could mean death for her – or far, far worse.
The Last Night at the Blue Alice blends time travel, Greek mythology, and horror into a wonderful little book. Wilson has created an oubliette into which all of the time travel scenes morph seamlessly into each other. She pays careful attention to the decades – my personal favorite was the goth scene in the mid-90’s. Man, oh man, did that take me back! The soundtrack for this chapter hit home and made me remember exactly how much Switchblade Symphony that I listened to back in the day. I digress….
If you are looking for an enjoyable, cross-genre novella – I highly recommend this one. It was just so much fun!
I picked this title up, along with Dangerous Red (which has just moved up higher in my TBR stack for sure!) directly from Necro Publications in October 2017 when they had a booth at Spooky Empire in Orlando.
A Flame Tree Press January 2019 release by Catherine Cavendish
3/5 Star Review
If there is one element of horror that I never tire of – it’s that of the ghost story. It’s what drew me to The Haunting of Henderson Close and made it seem a perfect choice to kick off my February TBR for Women in Horror Month.
Hannah, divorcée and empty-nester, has moved to Edinburgh to start her new life and dream job. She works as a tour guide in a haunted attraction, an actual haunted alley, dressing in period garb, and sharing its history with tourists. Almost immediately, Hannah begins to experience sights, sounds, and smells that do not belong in her time – they belong to the past.
Overall, this was a fun read – the characters were well-developed and Cavendish handles the transitions between the present and the past quite well. The story is fast-paced and honestly, the book was hard to put down.
Without giving away any spoilers, the story started to fall apart for me during the last quarter of the book. There seemed to be too many additional plot points introduced without enough pages left to truly flesh them out – it left for a bit of a muddy ending.
This was my first read from Catherine Cavendish and I would most certainly try her again – this book had me hooked nearly all the way to the end. If you have a recommendation for one of her titles – I’d love to hear about it.
As a note, I received The Haunting of Henderson Close as a galley from Flame Tree Books in exchange for an honest review.
A debut novel from Robin Triggs
4/5 Star Review
I requested this title for one reason: Antarctica. I am endlessly fascinated by the icy, desolate continent and will devour any books – fiction or non-fiction – that are set there. There is something in the isolation that I find both alluring and utterly terrifying.
Night Shift proved itself to be an enjoyable whodunnit that contained all of the fear and paranoia of John Carpernter’s The Thing mixed with the almost cozy quality of Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express.
I don’t want to give too much away, but the basic premise is this: Anders Nordvelt is sent to the Australis base in the Antarctic as a last-minute replacement for their head of security. He joins a team of twelve others who have been working together for the last six months – each with a specific skill set geared toward the success of their mission. Anders arrives as the base is being locked-down for the winter. They will be self-sustaining for the next six months with no shipments going in or out. As the night shift begins – everything starts to fall apart.
For me, Night Shift read as a character-driven mystery more than it was a horror or science-fiction novel – although it did contain elements of both. There is an almost casual world-building element that introduces a near-future, dystopian society where most of the world is controlled by a single, governing body – The Company. I appreciate that the author did not overly saturate the novel with dry details and instead chose to divulge a little bit at a time. It allowed you both the time to slowly acclimate to the world and to crave more knowledge of it.
Every character in this novel was fully fleshed out and not a one was wasted, or served as a throw-away character. Overall, this was a mature first novel and thoroughly enjoyable. I read that this is the first of a planned trilogy and I hope that is the case – I would love to read more novels set in this new world.
As a note, I received Night Shift as a galley from Flame Tree Books in exchange for an honest review.
A short story collection by Bracken MacLeod
5/5 Star Review
I have been toying with the idea of starting a book review blog for the past several months. My life is fairly hectic and I worried that I wouldn’t be able to keep it as timely as I feel it should be. I then read 13 Views of the Suicide Woods and realized that it doesn’t matter how often I am posting – what matters is that I am hopefully encouraging others to pick up amazing books that they might not otherwise read.
Short stories, when written well, are the perfect medium for horror. They have just enough story, just enough character development, that when they end they pack a serious punch. 13 Views of the Suicide Woods does just that – Nineteen stories that each hit hard in their own way. There is a smattering of the supernatural, but most of the stories revolve around the cruelty and the pain that we inflict on each other as human beings.
A few of the standout stories for me were The Boy Who Dreamt He Was a Bat, about a boy who desperately wishes he could fly away; All Dreams Die in the Morning, about a man’s past, present, and future; Blood of the Vine, about a college girl’s getaway to help heal after a traumatic event; and This Last Little Piece of Darkness, a man’s letter recounts his youth.
Honestly, there isn’t a weak story in this collection – all are extraordinarily well-rounded and well-written. It has been some time since I have read a book that left me so anxious and as ready for the book to end as I wished it never would. This was my first read from Bracken MacLeod and it will not be my last.