New American Folklore written by John Brhel & Joe Sullivan and illustrated by Chad Wehrle
5/5 Star Review
I first found out about this collection from a bookmark that was included in my January (I think…) Night Worms subscription box. Shortly thereafter, I stumbled upon Cameron Chaney’s BookTube channel and saw a great review for it (here). I knew I had to have it.
If you were a child in the 90’s and a fan of all things creepy, chances are you read Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, written by Alvin Schwartz and illustrated by Stephen Gammell. I sure was and can remember checking these books out from the school library over and over again. I loved them – and they terrified me. The illustrations alone were solid nightmare fuel.
Why am I waxing nostalgic about Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark? Let me tell you – Corpse Cold is a gorgeous homage to these childhood classics. Brhel & Sullivan have written a brilliant new collection amassing classic folklore tropes, local legends, and personal experience and packaging it all into this little book that is most definitely not for children.
Standout stories for me were Czarny Lud, a story of the Polish boogeyman and misbehaving children; Autoplay ‘On’, a cautionary tale of the dark web; Moss Lake Island, on why you should never trust witches; It That Decays, body horror that is not for the faint of heart; and Jesup, a tale of a boy and his pets.
Special recognition goes to Chad Wehrle for his illustrations in this collection. He truly captured the grotesque beauty that Stephen Gammell was known for and brought these stories to life with his artwork in Corpse Cold.
If you are jonesing for some scary stories and wishing to recapture that campfire nostalgia, look no further – you need Corpse Cold in your life. Brhel & Sullivan own and publish under their own imprint, Cemetery Gates Media. They have several other story collections that you can guarantee I will be ordering soon!
My final read for February, and for Women in Horror Month, was the darkly humorous and enjoyable My Sister, The Serial Killer.
Oyinkan Braithwaite is an author from Nigeria and this is her first novel published in the United States. She is yet another international author that I hope to read more from in the future.
My Sister, The Serial Killer follows older sister, Korede, and her younger sister, Ayoola. Korede is a respected nurse in a local hospital and her sister designs clothing and has a habit of killing her boyfriends in “self-defense.” Korede always gets the call and helps Ayoola clean up. Korede begins to question her loyalty to her sister when Ayoola starts to date the handsome, young doctor that Korede is secretly in love with. What’s a girl to do when your serial killer sister is moving in on the man you love?
Korede and Ayoola both share different naivetes when it comes to men and social graces. Ayoola understands what men want – even seemingly good-hearted men and tries to make Korede understand. Korede tries to make Ayoola understand that it’s poor form to SnapChat days after your boyfriend has gone missing.
Braithwaite’s use of political and culture satire is masterful and makes this novel work in a way that makes you sympathetic to these otherwise unlikable characters.
Highly recommend this quick read to horror and thriller fans – especially for those who enjoyed the early Dexter books.
Continuing on with Women in Horror Month, I read the phenomenal short story collection Things We Lost in the Fire. Mariana Enriquez is a novelist and journalist from Argentina and this is her first work to be published in English. I truly hope that there will be more of her work to come.
Short stories are my favorite medium for horror, but it is rare to find a single collection where every story is fantastic – Things We Lost in the Fire is an exception to this. There are twelve stories in this book and Every. Single. Story. is impactful, some are brutal, and all are poignant.
The author seamlessly blends horror, culture, politics, and the socio-economic climate of Argentina into these perfectly executed tales of ghosts, sadness, loss, and monsters. Each story has its own particular flavor and the collection is home to everything from magical realism to cosmic horror.
Trying to pick favorites out of this collection is near impossible, but some that have stuck with me are The Dirty Kid, about Saints, sacrifices, and missing children; Adela’s House, what happens when you face your fears and explore the haunted house; The Neighbor’s Courtyard, why you should always question a rental that seems to good to be true; Under the Black Water, about awakening an ancient evil that’s been asleep for a long time; and the title story, Things We Lost in the Fire, a sort of feminist call-to-arms. I realize that is nearly half of the stories – but this is book is just that good!
I purchased this collection after reading so many positive reviews and am so glad that I did! It has to the potential to speak to so many different audiences – don’t let this one pass by. Highly recommended!
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.
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!
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.
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 Thingmixed 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.
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.