Book Review: LULLABIES FOR SUFFERING

Lullabies for Suffering was my first venture into addiction horror, and I’ll definitely be seeking out more stories like those in this anthology. This book includes six novella/novelette-length tales, and it begins with a brief introduction by Mark Matthews, which provides the reader with a bit of information on the authors and their story topics. I thought that the introduction was a nice touch, as it gives the reader some background on addiction horror, and also prepares you for the story topics, should any of them be too sensitive.

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I enjoyed all of these stories, so I’d like to share some thoughts on each:

SOMETIMES THEY SEE ME—Kealan Patrick Burke:

This was a great start to the anthology. It’s a creative and touching story from start to finish, with a stellar ending. Matthews mentioned that it “begs to be read twice”, and I have to agree with this.

MONSTERS—Caroline Kepnes:

This was actually my first introduction to this author’s writing, and I can see why her stories are so well-loved. It’s a heartbreaking tale about addiction and abuse, and how it affects the family, especially children. This one is all about human monsters—no supernatural or other aspects of horror needed to make this tale frightening.

LIZARD—Mark Matthews:

This was also my introduction to Matthews’ writing, and it did not disappoint. It’s a powerful and memorable story, and by the time I reached the end I was adding all of Mark’s work to my wish list.

THE MELTING POINT OF MEAT—John F.D. Taff:

Another excellent offering from this author, who has been called, “The King of Pain” by others in the horror community. I was fully invested in the main character and couldn’t stop turning the pages on this one. I can’t wait to read more of his work.

BEYOND THE REEF—Gabino Iglesias:

This author’s writing is just beautiful—I found myself tearing up a few times early on in this story. There’s so much heart to this one, yet it’s also dark and gritty. I loved how the author portrayed the main character—we not only see his addictive behavior, but we also get a glimpse into the person behind the addiction, viewing the goodness that co-exists with the darkness. It’s a nerve-wracking tale with Lovecraftian vibes (I clearly need more of this in my life), and not to be missed.

LOVE IS A CREMATORIUM—Mercedes M. Yardley:

I won’t say too much, but this story made the whole anthology go out with a book-hangover inducing bang. A story about the lengths that some go to in order to save those they love, sometimes leading to their own addictions and demise in the process. This one left me in tears and yearning for more of Yardley’s writing. Thankfully, I had a collection of hers on my shelf, and immediately bumped it to the top of my pile.

This is a collection that will move any reader, and I’m sure each story will affect people differently. Despite the central theme, these stories vary in topic and scope of horror. If you’ve ever been personally affected by addiction in any way, you’ll find bits of each story that you can relate to. Like me, you might find that the words in these stories not only sting at times, but provide some sense of solace.

5/5 Stars

 

 

Book Review: CLICKERS by J.F. Gonzalez & Mark Williams

 

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Clickers is a book that’s been on my radar for awhile, but it took me awhile to get to it for a couple of reasons:

  1. I keep hoarding books, and my TBR piles are out of control.
  2. To be honest, I wasn’t sure if it was something I’d like all that much.

While on my recent used book hunt downstate, I came across a copy of this book, and took that as a sign that I needed to read it. So this past week, I sat down to start three books from my pile, and once I started Clickers, I couldn’t read anything else until I finished.

I’ve always been a fan of B horror movies, and that’s what I thought of when I saw the cover of this book. Those movies are fun but don’t have much substance—what I’m saying is I don’t go into watching one expecting much more than an outlandish storyline with wild creatures and a few laughs. But every once in awhile I’m pleasantly surprised. This is the case with some horror novels as well, especially the old 80s and 90s horror that we all love to collect. This was true for Clickers. This book was not at all what I expected, in the best way possible.

 In order to keep my sanity with reviews, I think I’m going to stick with “mini” reviews for books I read that were published 10+ years ago. I’m going with a slightly different style here, with some bullet points on my experience. Here are my thoughts:

-From the very beginning, I was invested in the main character, and grew fond of several others he met along his journey. Strong character development is usually at the top of my list for a book to rate 4 or 5 stars. I cared about these characters from the beginning to the end.

-The creatures truly creeped me out, and this whole thing played out like an action-packed movie in my mind—the gory descriptions are perfect and I’m fairly certain I wrinkled my nose and looked visibly shocked a few times while reading.

-There are some great pop culture/music references that I  loved– it made me nostalgic for the 90’s.

-I’ve been struggling over this past week, and this book was just what I needed. I was so immersed in the story that all of my preoccupations disappeared, at least for the time that I was reading. It was a much needed escape.

Overall, this is a fantastic read and I’d recommend it to all horror fans. It’s a true example of why not to judge a book by it’s cover or synopsis. I’m definitely interested in reading the other books in the Clickers universe. You’ll likely see those popping up on my social media accounts in the near future.

5/5 Stars

 

Book Review: THE GOD BENEATH MY GARDEN by Robert Ford

Upon finishing this collection, two specific thoughts popped into my mind. The first– I’ll continue to show up for anything that Bob Ford writes or recommends. The second thought was more of a question to myself, and that is: What is it that makes Bob’s writing so special? I think I know my answer to that question. For me, it’s the characters that truly stand out. Many of my favorite authors are so skilled at character development, and Bob Ford is no exception to this rule. He has a gift for turning everyday characters into something extraordinary. The stories in this collection are a wonderful blend of characters, settings, and emotions that are real and raw, and that’s what I  love about it.

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By now you know the drill. Here are my Top 5 stories in this collection:

-MAGGIE BLUE: Wow. This one is unforgettable and unsettling. It left my skin crawling and also had me caring about the main character in less than 15 pages. That’s impressive.

-FREE RIDE ANGIE: I’m no stranger to this character, thanks to my previous read from Bob. I loved reading more of Angie’s story. Bob writes some pretty badass female characters and she’s one of them. I won’t say much more, but you’ll be drawn in just from that opening line, and you won’t want to put the book down until you get to the end of this one.

-BLUEBOTTLE SUMMER: this is a beautifully written story. It’s heartbreaking at times, and also has some brutal moments. I won’t easily forget this one. There’s also a line in this story that I highlighted because I loved it so much. (If you want to know, shoot me a message. I don’t want to spoil it here).

-RACING THE MILK: Another powerful, heartfelt story. If you haven’t heard Bob read this one live, you should. I believe it’s available on YouTube. I loved the subject matter and the formatting in this story.

-OF ALL EVIL: This one is creepy. Things take an unexpected turn for the main characters, and it has an ending that packs a punch. A unique and memorable story.

Another aspect of this collection that I loved– the author’s notes at the end. These, combined with the introduction and afterword, really complete the package for me. I  think that author’s notes add so much to the writing for me. I    absolutely love the insight into the stories and learning what inspired them. It’s almost as good as talking directly with an author about the stories. This is an earlier collection of stories, as I’ve been reading Bob’s work in a somewhat backward fashion, but it’s solid nonetheless, and I’d highly recommend giving it a read.

5/5 Stars

Book Review: VARIOUS STATES OF DECAY by Matt Hayward

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If you’ve been following my book-related posts and reviews, you might’ve noticed that short story collections and anthologies have been taking up more space on my shelves lately. I love a good novel, but I feel there’s something special about a collection of short fiction. It showcases not only what an author can do with fewer words, but also gives the reader a taste of the author’s range. 

Matt Hayward is gifted with a vast imagination and a natural talent for storytelling. VARIOUS STATES OF DECAY is a brilliant display of these gifts. The book begins with an excellent foreword by Kelli Owen, and also includes an introduction by the author. Both of these pieces set a perfect scene for the stories to follow. 

I loved the variety of the stories in this collection, and from the moment I started reading, I found it difficult to set down. I carried this book around for several days, just waiting for any opportunity to sneak in a story when I could find a few moments to read. 

There are definitely some standouts in this collection, but before I get to those I’ll tell you that I truly enjoyed every single story in the bunch. These stories all share memorable characters, unique ideas, and of course, some top-notch dialogue. Once you read all of them, you’ll likely find that you’ve cycled through many different emotions. There are great descriptions that allowed for strong imagery, especially with regards to the moments of shock and horror. Each of these tales played out like little movies in my mind. 

I could easily select a “Top 10” from this collection, but I will stick with my tradition of a “Top 5”, and provide some insight on each. Before I divulge that list, I’d like to mention that I only selected stories that were new to me. There are a couple previously released stories (such as DARK STAGE) that I read and loved, but I’ve discussed them in a previous review (or have plans to in the future). 

My “Top 5” stories in this collection are: 

-MORE WILL FOLLOW: a sinister story with a great twist. I loved the feeling of dread created by the setting and uncertainty, and I was left a bit wide-eyed and surprised (in a good way) by the end. 

-THINGS FOUND IN COUCHES: I  found myself chuckling out loud at much of the dialogue in these stories, and this one was no exception. This is just a fun, wild ride of a story. It’s a Lovecraftian-style tale that I can only refer to as “creeptastic”, and it’ll make you think twice about digging into your couch cushions anytime soon. 

-KNOCK KNOCK: I thought this was very unsettling, and that’s a feeling that I love in a story. I can’t say much for fear of giving away too many details, but the “businessman” character gave me the creeps, and for some reason had me conjuring up images of the preacher from Poltergeist II (minus the singing). A great story with a stellar ending as well. 

-MUTT: this one is both horrific and heartbreaking, and you know how I  love that combination. It’s full of dread and sorrows that come from the horrors of real life, yet still contains a supernatural element. I especially loved the relationship between Tommy and his mom. This is just a beautifully written story. 

-FATHER’S DAY: This story is perfectly placed at the end of the collection. I  don’t want to give many details away. Let’s just say that this was the one I  personally connected with the most. It brought me to tears, and then I sat in a book-hangover stupor for several moments after closing the book. If I  have to select a favorite story overall, it’s this one.

There were several other standouts for me that I feel deserve an honorable mention, as they made it tough to narrow down my “Top 5”. Those are: I’D RATHER GO BLIND, THE CALL OF CHILDREN, COMES WITH THE RAIN, and THE CONDUCTOR.

This collection truly showcases Matt Hayward’s writing ability, but it’s even more than that. These stories are a great example of how horror is much more than what it seems on the surface— a genre more diverse and complex than what many would believe. This is a book that I’d recommend or gift to any reader interested in quality fiction, and I think that speaks volumes about the author’s talent. 

5/5 Stars

Book Review: THE FAITHFUL by Matt Hayward

2019 has been an unforgettable year for me, in many ways. While it has been clouded with sorrow, there have been some sunny moments as well. One bright spot this year is my discovery of even MORE talented authors. My bookshelves are bursting with new found favorites, and Matt Hayward’s work is among them. 

I feel like I showed up a bit late to the party, but then I claimed a quiet spot in a dark corner and never left. Now I’ve been sitting here with a stack of Matt’s books, trying to pace myself so that I don’t run out of reading material before something new is released. 
Unfortunately, I did not succeed at this plan, as just last night I finished reading the new short story collection. (Prepare yourselves—that review is coming in the next couple days). Apologies for the long-winded intro, but I felt it was necessary. Now, I’m ready to discuss THE FAITHFUL. 
Like all of Matt’s writing, this novel contains an unforgettable cast of characters. They are all lovable but flawed, making them relatable and realistic to the reader. The character  development is one of my favorite aspects of this story. I especially enjoyed Jonesy and the budding relationships he had with both Leo and Caleb, each unique, with a mix of tough and tender moments along the way. 
I was drawn into the story from the start, and as always, I enjoyed that there was a well balanced a mix of horror, heart, and humor. Once things got going, there was a continued sense of dread and I really wanted to see these characters make it through their ordeal safely. There’s a healthy dose of gore and creepiness in this tale—it’s not easy to forget the terrifying townsfolk of Elswich or the horrors that ensue. An overall great story, and another recommended read—you should add it to your shelf soon, if you haven’t already grabbed a copy. 

 

4/5 Stars