One-Sentence Reviews: My 2nd Quarter 2022 Reads

This quarter includes stories about Bigfoot, Vikings, amateur sleuths, and Gothic ghosts!

The Devil Took Her by Michael Botur is a gritty and compelling collection of horror short stories with subjects like gangs and rats rather than werewolves and specters. Kindle.

Autumn Gothic by Brian Bowyer. Despite the title, my favorite Bowyer book yet is more extreme horror than Gothic horror, and NONE of his characters are safe. KU.

Whodunit? I was clueless until the end!

Double Date Disaster by Hope Callaghan. A cute, Golden Girls type of cast made this a fun cozy mystery. Whodunit? I was clueless until the end! Kudos to Callaghan for stumping me. KU.

Murder in a Dream by Thea Cambert. Happy people in happy places with nice conversations don’t make a cozy mystery very exciting, but readers’ mileage may vary. KU.

The nice-guy prince of horror wrote a YA space adventure?!

Light-Years from Home by Michaelbrent Collings. OMGosh, the super nice man who writes bloody, violent thrillers wrote a cute, chatty YA space adventure. Advanced copy from author.

Egyptian adventures!

She Who Returns by Audrey Driscoll. The sequel to She Who Comes Forth wraps up France Leighton’s Egyptian adventures with a storyline I couldn’t predict and a protagonist I’ve come to love. KU.

Blackened Rose by Cage Dunn. I am a fan of Dunn’s short fiction, but this novel-length, supernatural crime story didn’t suit me because of the long contemplative passages, but I dug the noir prose. KU.

“Bigfoot: A Short Story” by D.L. Finn. Using mostly blog posts for narration gives this light-horror story an au currant feel and presents a different theory of our relationship with the cryptid creature. Kindle.

A Voice in the Silence by D.L. Finn. Finn combines talking animals, domestic suspense, paranormal mystery, and romance for a story that left me with happy tears. KU.

Grief as a character.

Almost Ruth by Tyler Jones. With Jones’ skilled writing, grief becomes a character, and though this is a horror story, it’s more of the dread kind, not the slasher kind. KU.

Life & Soul by Harmony Kent. OMGosh, what an awesome poetry collection of emotional, life-exposing, soul-touching pieces! KU.

Red by Jack Ketchum. Ketchum’s classic story about a man and his dog is two parts psychological horror and one part gorgeous descriptions (ala Flannery O’Connor, honest descriptions in that they don’t avert the reader’s gaze). KU.

“Tapped” by Axl Malton is the author’s debut short story and a fun exploration of the revenge-horror trope. KU.

Can a character be too pleasant?

Coffee & Corpses by Maisy Marple. A cozy mystery with a pleasant main character, maybe too pleasant. KU.

The Bad Ones by Kelly Martin. Book two in Martin’s The Red Mirror series of middle grade books employs Martin’s chatty style, warm characters, and goose-bumpy mirror scenes. Kindle.

“Bunnies” by Simon McHardy and Sean Hawker. I am an experienced horror reader, but even my stomach was turned by this extreme horror short story of rabbits gone mad. (Trigger warnings as long as your arm.) Ebook from Potter’s Grove Press.

Folk horror set in Croatia.

It Eats Us from the Inside by Antonija Meznaric. The slow, dread-filled pace of this folk horror novella set in near future Croatia won’t suit everyone, but I loved the atmospheric dread, the diverse cast, the dog, and the ambiguous passages that made me think. Advanced copy from publisher.

Bishop by Candace Nola. There are geography and weather errors in this genre creature-feature set in Alaska, and the setup takes awhile, but once the creatures are on stage, it’s a fast and fun story that had me rooting for the good guys. KU.

Dancing in the Shadows ed by Elaine Pascale and Rebeca Rowland is a charity anthology tribute to Anne Rice with strong writing and a good cause (Animal Rescue of New Orleans). KU.

The Insurgent by Teri Polen. Book two of Polen’s YA science fiction duology is packed full of action scenes and surprise twists broken up by calm moments of internal monologue. NetGalley.

Beware of black-eyed children.

The BEK Curse by Johnathan Pongratz. This harrowing novelette takes a sweet, almost-retired couple and puts them through the ringer when they encounter the black-eyed children of urban legend. KU.

Fugue Devil: Resurgence by Stephen Mark Rainey is a collection of cosmic horror short stories penned by an experienced storyteller and possessing a strong sense of place, mostly in North Carolina or West Virginia. Bonus points for cool cover art by Daniele Serra. Advanced copy from publisher.

34 Orchard, Issue 5, Spring 2022, ed by Kristi Petersen Schoonover. I love this dark literary journal, and the spring issue is no exception with its sophisticated storytelling, emotive poetry, and contemplative illustrations. Free download from the 34 Orchard website.

Viking zombies!

The Again-Walkers by Deborah Sheldon. How awesome that Sheldon puts a new spin on zombies by setting her zombie novelette in the Viking era, before zombies were called zombies (thus the “again-walkers”). KU.

Jagged Feathers by Jan Sikes. Sikes mixes psychic fiction, romance, and crime to produce what’s ultimately a satisfying love story (and I got a kick out of the way Nakina’s grandmother kept popping into scenes). Kindle.

Steampunk Scooby Doo!

The Ghostly Tower by A.F. Stewart is the first novella in Stewart’s lighthearted, steampunk, supernatural mystery series, like a steampunk Scooby Doo for grownups! Kindle.

Sweet and Milky by K.M. Strange. This incredibly bizarre fetish erotica story had me captivated from the first page with a mashup of crime, romance, and Strange’s signature sense of humor. KU.

An extra thumbs-up for a bold twist on the cozy trope.

Cooking the Books by Chelsea Thomas is an almost-formulaic cozy mystery except the main character is not the main (amateur) sleuth, and that gets an extra thumbs-up from me for a bold twist on the trope. KU.

The Pure World Comes by Rami Ungar. This is a reread for me, and the Gothic horror story with its mad scientist and ghosts and portals was just as fun the second time around. Kindle.

Mephisto Disco by Simon Paul Wilson. Wilson’s debut collection of short horror stories has the disappearing kind of prose that puts the plot and characters front and center for an engaging, scary experience. KU.

What’s up with today’s feature image? What does a spider have to do with books? Nothing. It’s just a photo of a female red-backed jumping spider, the first visitor to our new home. Isn’t she pretty?!

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