Book Review: BRAIN DEAD BLUES by Matt Hayward

You know that moment when you discover that one of your favorite recording artists is also phenomenal live in concert? (I hope you do). It’s the same feeling when you find out that an author can write both novels and short fiction with an equal measure of talent. This is the feeling I encountered when I followed up my read of Matt Hayward’s first novel with his short fiction collection, Brain Dead Blues.

 I enjoyed all of the stories, and the collection as a whole was a five-star read. Each story is unique, and I loved that as I progressed through the collection, I went through a range of emotions as a reader. With short fiction collections or anthologies, I like to narrow it down to my “Top 5” favorite stories. I’ll do that here, with a snippet of my thoughts on each.

PZo3+wD5Rz2agQsG6w5UAQ

-GOD IS IN THE RADIO: This one being about a rock musician automatically pulled me in from the beginning. I loved the horror woven in with some fantastic descriptions of rock n’ roll—in my notes I had written, “page 18-19-this description makes me think of certain albums I love and how I feel after attending an amazing concert”. I also noted a line from a song woven into some of the dialogue later in the story, which I thought was fun and might not be noticed by all readers.

-CRITTER: This was a fun read. Gory and also had me laughing out loud a few times. I thought that Angela was a great character, and got a little thrill out of her adventures once she discovered the critter…

-MEETING GREGORY: My favorite story of the collection. So, you can probably guess that it did make me cry. However, it would still be my favorite regardless of that fact. I did also find myself laughing and smiling at certain parts, but it was mostly a heartfelt story about true horrors brought on by real people. This one has been on my mind since I closed the book, and I would re-visit it again. It wrecked me in a good way.

-THAT’S THE PRICE YOU PAY: This one is a unique spin on a vampire tale. I love vampires, and enjoyed that it is different than any other stories I’ve read on the topic. I also feel like I could re-read this one several times and take more from it with each read.

-KING OF THE GYPSIES: This story is a different spin on a werewolf story, and I really enjoyed it. I once thought I wasn’t that into werewolf tales, but I think I just wasn’t reading the right ones, because this is one of those that has changed my tune.

I highly recommend this collection if you’re already a fan of Matt Hayward’s writing, and if you haven’t read any of his work yet, then it would also be a great starting point. You really can’t go wrong with any of these stories.

 

5/5 Stars

Book Review: ONE FOR THE ROAD by Wesley Southard

JvF7xmS0RNKyaLxbWNpuXg

Somewhere I’ve got a picture of myself at 11 months old, wearing a giant pair of headphones. On the back of that picture, my mom wrote the caption, “Listening to dad’s rock and roll”. This was likely a pivotal moment at which my love of music began, and it has never wavered since. You might be asking how this relates to my book review. I think it’s important to know that while I’ve always loved reading, music was my first love and it has always been a constant in my life. The week that I was born, “I Love Rock n’ Roll” was number one on the Billboard chart, and I can’t think of anything more fitting.

Somehow, I’ve only recently discovered a bunch of horror and dark fiction with rock music woven into the stories. This thrills me to no end, as I find myself relating even more to what I’m reading. Wesley Southard’s ONE FOR THE ROAD is one of these stories. It is a fast-paced, wild adventure, filled with nightmarish horrors nearly every step of the way. I loved the premise—a story about a rock band thrown into an ever-changing landscape full of hellish creatures and gory scenes that play out like a film in the mind. There were several passages in which I found myself nodding in relation to the main character’s love of music. I loved early on how there were references to classic rock and his dad, and then several bands mentioned at a later point in the story. I’m not a musician, but as a fan I could relate to the love of many of those bands, and imagine the high I feel after attending an amazing concert.

Overall, this was a very enjoyable story, and I’ll definitely be reading more from this author in the near future!

 

4/5 stars

Book Review: What Do Monsters Fear? by Matt Hayward

While at Scares That Care Weekend this year, I met so many wonderful authors, but had limited space to bring books back home in my suitcase. So, the first night there, I did a little digging on GoodReads to view the synopses of the books from the authors whose work interested me. I’d read and loved Matt Hayward’s collaboration with Robert Ford, and decided to pick up a copy of The Faithful, and also the book I’ll be discussing here—What Do Monsters Fear?

wab9m5ebsawgtbkhzb2gzw.jpg

 I love that while we all cherish many of the same novels, each reader comes to the story with a different perspective based on their own life experience. If you’ve been following me for some time, then you likely know that I lost my Dad to suicide a few months ago. In the synopsis of this novel, it’s made clear that the main character is considering this same type of fate. So, I can tell you this: the first couple chapters of this novel cracked my heart a little, as I read about Peter’s pain and the negative thoughts going through his mind at that time. However, this did not deter me from reading on, as it’s no secret I love books that stir up all kinds of feelings.

What followed as the story continued had all the makings of what I’d call a great horror novel. Not only is the protagonist a well-developed character, but the supporting players are all memorable in their own right. I loved reading about the relationship between Peter and his grandmother, and his developing friendship with Henry. I never felt like the story was lagging, and the pace picked up even more during the second half of the book. It’s a story with a great premise, haunting and original setting, and dabs of humor and heart mixed in along the way. The whole thing played out like a movie in my mind, as all the best stories do. I also liked that the writing is descriptive, yet to the point—it’s not bogged down with unnecessary detail, which also contributes to the nearly nonstop action once the characters arrive at their destination.

Overall, this is an impressive debut novel; a well-told story with a solid character arc and a satisfying ending. Whenever I discover a great author and it seems I’m a bit late to the party, I feel a bit sorry about it. But if I look on the bright side of things, that just means that I can take a bit more time to enjoy the rest of Matt Hayward’s published work while I’m waiting for new material.

 

5/5 Stars

 

 

Book Review: Inner Demons by Robert Ford

Inner Demons is a wonderful collection that features 4 novellas, each of which is unique and memorable. These stories had all of my favorite elements—unforgettable characters, laugh-out-loud humor, and heartfelt moments.

fullsizeoutput_1205.jpeg

THE LAST FIREFLY OF SUMMER was a moving tale of love and revenge. This was a perfect starting point, drawing me into the pages and making me tear up a time or two.

RING OF FIRE was an action packed and hilarious adventure, with scenes and characters I’ll likely never forget.

BORDERTOWN was very fun as well, and possibly the most unsettling tale for me. It’s a tie between this one and the first in the collection for my favorite.

Last, but certainly not least, we have BIG STAKES JACKIE. This story grabbed my attention and never let go, up until the end (at which point I’m pretty sure my jaw was slightly agape).

Aside from the amazing stories, this collection contains author notes, which I absolutely love. Meeting and interacting with authors has deepened my reading experience, and having author notes for each novella is icing on the cake.

I also can’t stop myself from raving about the other aspects that make this entire package a true gem. Thunderstorm books put together a visually stunning piece. (Have you seen those end papers?) I think that other readers will marvel at this collection, from the gorgeous cover to the foreword from Matt Hayward, through Bob’s wonderful words that will be savored to the end. If you can get your hands on this book, you will not be disappointed!

5/5 Stars