Welcome to my quarterly book reviews where I try (and sometimes fail) to write a one-sentence review for each book I read. But wait, I have news!
My first standalone story, a Kindle novelette called “The Hay Bale,” will be released January 10, 2022, and is now available for preorder for 99 cents. It will also be available on Kindle Unlimited.
Now for my one-sentence reviews:
When the Cicadas Stop Singing by Zachary Ashford. This post-apocalyptic novella set in Australia is the survivor-horror genre at its best. KU.
Donn, TX 1969 by Eric Butler. Part of the Donn, TX horror series, this novella installment has some point-of-view issues, but it is a fast, fun (and extremely bloody!) story. KU.
While the Bombs Fell by Robbie Cheadle and Elsie Hancy Eaton is a biography of Eaton’s childhood in England during the 1940s literally “as the bombs fell” and reminded me of the life-affirming vibes from A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. E-book purchase from Lulu.
The Moons of Autumn edited by Colleen M. Chesebro & Jules Page. Short, evocative poems perfect for meditation. KU.
Things Old and Forgotten by Mae Clair. In this captivating short story collection, Clair skillfully adapts her prose to fit each story from sentimental (but never sappy) to scary (but never extreme). KU.
Such a Pretty Smile by Kristi DeMeester. I loved this feminist, canine-horror story even if the progressive messaging was intrusive. NetGalley.
Amanda in New Mexico by Darlene Foster. I learned a lot about New Mexico in Foster’s Middle Grade, educational story in which there may be ghosts! KU.
Undertow by Marlena Frank. This creature-feature novelette starts slow, but the payoff when the creature (or creatures, I’m not telling) arrives is totally worth the wait. KU.
The Boy With the Spider Face by A.J. Franks. This is a YA horror novel that’s a little corny up front but has an ending that will terrify even adults. ARC from publisher.
The Tower in the Mist by Deby Fredericks. Fredericks sets up this enjoyable fantasy as a typical sword-and-sorcery story but uses political and societal plot threads to progress the story rather than the usual battle, battle, battle, battle. Kindle.
Dead of Winter, Journeys 10, 11, and 12 by Teagan Riordáin Geneviene. In these three entertaining installments of the Dead of Winter serial fantasy novel, Geneviene’s talent for creating original settings and weaving together disparate story threads is on display. Kindle.
Wicked Creatures edited by Scott T. Goudsward, Daniel G. Keohane, and David Price. This is a solid anthology of quality, dark stories, and I learned what a kobold creature is. (p.s. Kobolds are NOT good!). KU.
A Silent Dystopia edited by D.T. Griffith and Dave Jeffery. A quality horror short story anthology set in a unique post-apocalyptic world where to be deaf is the norm. KU.
Hunger by Knut Hamsun. A classic, brutal novella that I couldn’t put down about a gentleman’s descent into starvation. Paperback purchase from Amazon.
The Stranger Within by Debbie Johansson. This is an Australian Gothic novella in which Johansson nails the creepy setting and spooky ghostly things, very fun. ARC from author.
The Dark Side of the Room by Tyler Jones. Jones takes an elderly protagonist who may or may not have dementia, and puts her in a novella with simple prose, simple metaphors, and nods to Herbert’s The Rats for an inner city horror novella that spooked me! KU.
Witch’s Bargain by Bella Dean Joyner. This novella starts slow, but delights readers later on with Darcy-Coates-like passages and an intriguing mystery-haunting. Promotional freebie from the author.
Snow Falls by Martie Kay is a wintery romance novel that reads breezy fast and leaves you feeling sappy-happy. Kindle.
Oh, Baubles by Harmony Kent. I loved this sweet Christmas romance novella that made me smile. KU.
The Radiator Boy and the Holly Country by Zoltan Komor. (First, can we just say what a cool name the GENIUS Hungarian author has?) Christmas horror novel with poetic passages, iconoclastic story lines, extreme violence, phantasmagoric scenes, Biblical and folktale allusions, political and family and societal commentary, and a Passion Play . . . not for everyone, but I loved it. Kindle.
Literal Life Lessons by Sandra Nelms-Ludwig. This collection of poetry by a black woman who grew up in a poor, segregated area broke me with its beauty and horror. Paperback purchase from the author.
The House That Fear Built by Kelly Martin is a YA contemporary Gothic novel that I loved because of the spooky haunted house, body-positive messaging, and a twist so surprising that I actually gasped while reading. KU.
Neil by Simon McHardy and Sean Hardy. The ebook was banned by Kindle for the story’s over-the-top gore (as in purposely absurd like junior high humor), but it’s entertaining in a brainless way, nuf said. E-book purchase through Potter’s Grove Press.
Escaping Psychiatry by Olga Nunez Miret. In this collection of three suspense novellas, I loved how the protagonist, Mary, a psychiatrist much like Miret herself, gives the reader keen insight to characters’ motivations. KU.
This Thing Between Us by Gus Moreno. OMGosh, SO good, don’t read the reviews because there will be spoilers for this AI horror/domestic thriller/mystery, brilliant novel! Kindle.
The Mountains of Sorrow by Iseult Murphy is a fantasy novella with the coolest dragon creatures ever! KU.
“Who Wants to Go for a Walk?” by Iseult Murphy in Glimmer: An Anthology of Hope edited by Sef Churchill and Justin Booth. Murphy’s futuristic AI horror story is Murphy’s best yet with its deep point of view and intriguing dog character. Kindle.
“Left for Dead” and “Fall from Grace” by Kelli Owen. Not for sensitive readers, this two-story collection of revenge horror was banned from Amazon. (Who says women can’t write extreme horror?) E-book purchase from Payhip.
Pray Lied Eve 3 by Lydia Peever. In this collection of sophisticated, dark short stories, “Checking Out” is my favorite, an Adam-Nevill-like story that takes readers inside an abandoned hotel and leaves them there. Kindle.
Death Rattle and Other Dark Tales by Michael Potts is a collection of satisfying Southern Gothic horror that manages to disturb readers without offending them, probably because Potts, with his two Masters degrees in theology and religion, is sensitive to readers of faith. E-book copy from author.
Plighted by Cecilia Pulliam is a high-fantasy standalone adventure and romance with allegorical overtones and beautiful, ethereal creatures. KU.
K is for Kidnap from Red Cape Publishing. This anthology of kidnapping stories has everything from genre fun to literary fiction to bizarre alien plots, some totally awesome, some meh. KU.
Served Cold edited by R. Saint Claire and Steve Donoghue is a YouTube charity anthology with a winter theme and such a variety of stories that every reader will find something they love (I did!). Kindle.
34 Orchard, Issue 4, Autumn 2021, edited by Kristi Petersen Schoonover. The theme for this terrific issue of the dark literary journal is things we lost and what we found in the aftermath, emphasis on literary because of the way the characters and their situations stick with you long after you’re done reading. Issues are free from the journal’s website.
“Mountain Laurel Christmas” by Jan Sikes is a sweet, feel-good, country music novelette that had me crying the whole last half. KU.
Poetry of Monsters and Madness by A. F. Stewart. Stewart’s shadowy imagery carries the narrative in short-lined, short poems with eerie, dark subjects. Kindle.
All I Want for Christmas is You…. And Him by K.M. Strange. Strange’s typical humor and engrossing erotica allows the reader (even straight, sheltered-upbringing women like me) to explore the more playful side of life from the safety of their Kindle. Kindle.
Unleashed in London by K.M. Strange. In this crime-erotica novella (“eroticrime”?), the suspense is superb, the romance is graphic (and, um, unique), and the big plot twist made it impossible to put down. KU.
No Anesthetic edited by Lisa Tone. Be aware, this is an extreme horror collection with lots of gore and violence, but it’s scary and fun, too. Kindle.
“No Such Luck” by Staci Troilo is a light-hearted, winter romance novelette with the most adorable main character, Piper, who reminds us that we all stick a foot in our mouths from time to time! KU.
Blood and Paper Skin Part Two by Rami Ungar from The Dark Sire Literary Journal, November 2021 issue. This is the second installment of Ungar’s serial novella, and Ungar keeps things interesting with disappearing victims, screams, and blood . . . very nail-biting. E-zine purchase through magazine’s website.
The Pure World Comes by Rami Ungar. If you combine an eccentric scientist, feminism, and Victorian ghosts, you get the perfect Gothic horror novel: The Pure World Comes. Through the Android app Readict (free, with ads), but will be published in paperback in 2022.
Rhitta Gawr by David Watkins is number 73 in the Short Sharp Shocks! series. (I love this series.) A fun novelette in which two tourists don’t respect the local North Whales lore, and things ramp up to a (well written!) gore fest. KU.
We’re Not Home edited by Cam Wolfe is a vacation horror anthology written by YouTubers with a variety of talent (including some real gems), and proceeds go to charity. KU.
Nightbitch by Rachel Yoder. This humorous but hard-edge look at the difficulties of first-time motherhood is as provocative as the title suggests. Kindle.
Happy reading and happy New Year!
Today’s feature image by Alejandro Barba on unsplash.