Book Review: Night As a Catalyst by Chad Lutzke

Chad Lutzke has become one of my favorite authors this year, and for good reason. I loved his novellas OUT BEHIND THE BARN (with John Boden), THE SAME DEEP WATER AS YOU, and STIRRING THE SHEETS. I actually count myself lucky because I’ve yet to read several of his books, which means I’ll have more to tide me over until he releases new material. I adored his collection SPICY CONSTELLATION & OTHER RECIPES, and have never regretted becoming a patron of his early on in my reading of his work.

NIGHT AS A CATALYST was recently revised and expanded, and I thoroughly enjoyed this mix of short stories and flash fiction. My top five favorites (in no order) are:

-Deprivation

-Splitting Pairs

-One for the Road

-One up a Tree

-Self-Immolation

Something that I enjoy is when the author includes story notes, divulging a bit more information on the background of each tale. This really deepens the reading experience for me. Chad included these notes in SPICY CONSTELLATION as well, and this was something I truly loved having access to in each collection.

I know I sound like a broken record, but if you’re looking for horror with heart, look no further than Chad Lutzke’s writing. Until his new novel releases next month, I’ll be savoring his words in one of the few books I’ve got waiting on my shelf.

4/5 stars

Book Review: John Wayne Lied to You by John Wayne Comunale

This is a fun collection of real-life stories from John Wayne Comunale. I’m not sure which parts are “mostly true” and which aren’t, but I was highly entertained by each tale in this book. There were several laugh out loud moments, and after reading these tales, it’s possible I had some weird dreams. I love this author’s storytelling style and am anticipating what’s to come in the remainder of his work that’s on my TBR cart!

4/5 stars

Book Review: Cry Your Way Home by Damien Angelica Walters

As I’m exposed to more new authors, short story collections are becoming just as important to me as novels. Sometimes, I enjoy reading a story or two in between bits of novels that I’m currently reading, and other times, I simply feel the urge to make my way through an entire collection without the distraction of another book. I love that short stories can be just as powerful on their own as a novel, and I’m enchanted when an entire collection comes together and leaves a mark on my memory.

Damien Angelica Walters is an author that is new to me, but after making my way through the stories in CRY YOUR WAY HOME, I’m certain I’ll be seeking out more of her work. This is a strong collection of stories. The author’s words are both haunting and beautiful at the same time. I love this combination, and felt comfortable in the melancholic realm that these stories created. With collections or anthologies, I like to list my top five stories. (I also enjoy hearing about the favorites of others who have read the same collection). Here they are, in no particular order:

-ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE DOOR, EVERYTHING CHANGES

-THIS IS THE WAY I DIE

-NOT MY CIRCUS, NOT MY MONKEYS: THE ELEPHANT’S TALE

-FALLING UNDER, THROUGH THE DARK

-A LIE YOU GIVE, AND THUS I TAKE

I’m very much looking forward to reading more from this author, especially her novel that releases later this year.

5/5 stars

Book Review: Remains by Andrew Cull

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Remains is the first novel from Andrew Cull, and also my first introduction to his work. I was fortunate to win a copy of an early release of this book from the author himself. Last night I picked this book up, intending to read a few chapters, and then proceeded to stay awake until 2:30 a.m. to finish it.

This book gripped me from start to finish. The first half is a slow build, as we’re taken through the turmoil of Lucy’s grief over the loss of her son. There were several parts in which I had to take a break to compose myself. I’ve never lost a child, so I cannot imagine that exact type of grief, but losing my dad two months ago, and experiencing some trauma from the whole scenario has opened up my ability to relate to this general theme of loss in the story. (Let’s be honest, I had tears in my eyes from the beginning, where I read that Andrew dedicated this book to his father).

Not only does the author take us on a heartbreaking journey through grief, but we’re then led into some heart-pounding scares and memorable moments for the remainder of the novel. I’m not easily frightened, and I felt some serious moments of dread during this story. There are also some memorable scenes that played out like a movie in my mind. These bits left me cringing and also felt a bit reminiscent of some favorite horror films. (I’ll leave it at that to avoid spoilers).

I’ve mentioned in previous reviews how much I love books that make me feel. Remains is now added to that stack, and while I had a fleeting thought that perhaps this was too much for me to read at the moment, I’m actually glad that I picked it up at this time. For me, reading about topics that resonate with my own struggles is therapeutic. I hope to read more of Andrew’s work soon, and highly recommend this one to anyone interested in a quality piece of horror fiction.

 

5/5 Stars

 

 

Book Review: Spungunion by John Boden

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While at STC Weekend, I  was thankfully able to snag a copy of the updated version of Spungunion by John Boden. After adoring Out Behind the Barn and Walk the Darkness Down, I didn’t wait long to jump into this novella.

The introduction by Bracken MacLeod was wonderful, as he perfectly described how I  feel about Boden’s writing. I myself have never been able to articulate these thoughts in spoken or written form, and found myself nodding my head and smiling in agreement as I  read through the intro.

This is a short tale, but like all of the other stories by this author, it is rich and full of everything I love in a book-bits of horror, humor, and heart. By the end of the story I felt like I’d been along for the ride in Deke’s truck, and the only thing I was missing was a soundtrack in the background. I  generally gobble up stories that give me feelings, and this one was no exception, with its main theme of grief and loss. I  lost my dad about two months ago, and while some may want to avoid stories on the topic while nursing a fresh emotional wound, for me it’s cathartic to embrace it.

I’m here for anything that John Boden writes, and if he wrote an epic tome, I’d be ecstatic. It would mean I’d have more time to wrap myself in his words, without the need to pace my reading in order to remain in this wonderful realm a bit longer.

5/5 Stars

Book Review: Sinkhole by John Wayne Comunale

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While at Scares That Care weekend, I went to the “Bizarro Power Hour”, which was a late night reading. Six or so authors presented during this hour, and one of them was John Wayne Comunale. Instead of reading from one of his books, he told a real life story, which I  found highly entertaining. Because of how animated and hilarious his storytelling was, I  sought him out the following day and purchased several of his books. (I also found out that he has a podcast, which I’ve since listened to and am likely to keep in my regular rotation).

It was tough to choose which book to read first, as the plots all sounded equally entertaining. I ultimately chose to read Sinkhole first, and was not disappointed. This little novella is packed with some truly memorable characters (including a cat named Sandman), laugh-out-loud moments, and some horrific scenes that are burned into my brain. The story was perfectly paced; there was initial tension between the characters of Reggie and his wife, Betsy, and this was only amplified as the sinkhole began to grow and reveal its contents. Comunale also has a flair for figurative language that intensifies the image in the reader’s mind. There were several lines I read two or three times because I  thought they added so much to the description of the scene.

I won’t say more for fear of spoilers. If you’re a fan of the bizarro horror genre, or just looking for a short but solid horror story, look no further than this creative tale!

5/5 Stars

Book Review: Walk the Darkness Down by John Boden

Here is my long-overdue review of Walk the Darkness down by John Boden:

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My first introduction to John Boden’s work was his collaboration with Chad Lutzke, Out Behind the Barn. I absolutely loved that story and waited way too long to dive into John’s solo work. Walk the Darkness Down is a western-themed story, but it’s not all grit. It has moments of horror and heart, and the writing is just gorgeous. There are so many quotable lines that I can’t list them all. Boden has a knack for writing a piece that makes a reader feel both unsettled and heartbroken in the best way possible. Sometimes, figurative language in a piece can be over the top, but this author is a master at using just the right amount. This is a book that needs to be savored by the reader, taking it all in so none of the richness of the prose is missed. It is a haunting, atmospheric, and lingering tale that left me with a book hangover and a desire to read everything that John Boden has written!

5/5 Stars