Book Review: CIRQUE BERSERK by Jessica Guess

Cirque Berserk was my first read from Unnerving’s “Rewind or Die” novella series. It certainly won’t be my last from this series or from author Jessica Guess. I was initially drawn into this story by the 80’s vibes, but I stuck around for so much more. 

There are a lot of things to love about this book, starting with the 80’s pop culture references, which I adored. I loved all of the song mentions throughout the story, and how each section of the book was titled with an 80’s track (especially how the first and last section tied together). The musical mentions and the setting, in an abandoned carnival, both add a lot to the atmosphere of the story. 

This book read like a movie to me. It’s like a teen horror film that I would’ve selected on VHS during my high school days. I was drawn in fast, and carried along by a great combination of suspense and character development. I really enjoyed the format for this story. As we follow a group of modern day teens into the carnival, we’re then introduced to a group of murderous teens who’ve haunted the place for 30 years. The chapters each focus on a specific character’s background as we’re still carried through current affairs. It was nice getting a glimpse into each of the main characters’ past. This allowed for a lot of depth to my understanding and connection with the story, as I was able to empathize not only with the protagonists, but with the antagonists as well. 

The kills in this tale are cinematic and memorable. There’s a nice balance of gore and substance within the story, which I appreciated. I’m fairly certain I’ll never hear a few specific 80’s songs in the same way again, and I’m now even more creeped out by carnival attractions like the Funhouse. By the end I wanted to transport myself back to my local roller rink in the late 80’s. There was never a better time to don a pair of roller skates, snap some bubble gum, and drop a song request in the deejay’s bucket (which they lowered down on a string). What a fun and nostalgic read!

Book Review: DETRITUS IN LOVE by Mercedes M. Yardley and John Boden

Here we go again…

I’m here to talk about another story that gave me all the feels. I’ve been stuck in a serious reading rut, and figured that some comfort reads might help. As I scanned my TBR stacks for unread books by favorite authors, I came across this gem of a novella.

If you’ve read work from both authors, then you know that they both excel at this: creating stories which marry the macabre and drab parts of life to those that are beautiful and wondrous. When it comes to books, music, and film, there are few things I find more enticing than a piece of art deliciously dark and haunting, yet soft around the edges. I liken the feeling to being in an abandoned building—there’s something beautiful about the chaos and ruin, and maybe a bit of light creeping among the shadows. 

Every piece of fiction I’ve read so far from Boden and Yardley fits this mold. I was not at all surprised to discover that the authors’ voices blended well throughout this story. I adored the figurative language used and found myself reading numerous sentences two or three times in a row to savor the beauty of the words. There are so many quotable lines that beg to be read again, and the sensory experience is strong. I couldn’t always tell who was writing, but I did find several mentions of band t shirts that I’m sure were the work of Boden, and each instance made me smile. The characters are a standout feature in this story. Whenever I find myself empathizing with the protagonist within mere pages, I know I’ve found something special. But it’s not just Det’s story that resonates—I found something to love about his best friend and his love interest as well. The dark characters in this story, both human and supernatural, also left a permanent mark on my mind.  

This novella is a short read at under 60 pages, but it packs an emotional punch. If you love a story that will creep you out, possibly break your heart, and leave you with an unsettling book hangover, pick up a copy of Detritus in Love.