Monday, December 8, 2014

Reviews for the Week of December 8, 2014

NOTE: Please see bottom of main page for submission information. Thank you.

SINNERS CIRCLE by Karina Sims (2014 Dark Hall Press  / 147 pp / trade paperback & eBook)

With the holidays just around the corner you might want to stop reading this now and look elsewhere. If you’re searching for happy puppy dog kisses and stuffed animals you might want to go that-a-way as well. But, if you’re sticking around for the blood and guts party and just happen to be in the market for a gruesome, witty debut horror novel with enough rough sex for days, then you just may happen to be in the right place.

SINNERS CIRCLE by Karina Sims is a great and innovative read. It's packed with the right amount of raw materials, brutality, pornography, and dry humor for all of your extreme horror and dark fiction needs. Sims somehow manages to create a book that borders and blurs the lines of psychological and personal horror to the point where it’s easy to forget you’re reading a debut novel in the first place. This one will pull you in and make sure you stick around for a while. At one point I felt like I was holding a literary equivalent to the film Hostel, but with slightly more emotion and a lot more girl on girl action than found in the opening scenes of the flick.  

Sadistic serial killers, porn shops, drug use, violence, this book has it all. This is a great and brutal addition to the world of Horror and Dark Fiction from a new voice. I think it’d be safe to say to watch out for this one folks! Especially during the dark hours at night.

-Jon R. Meyers

IN THE END, ONLY DARKNESS by Monica O’Rourke (2014 Deadite Press / 232 pp / trade paperback & eBook)

You know, I am always astounded at athletes who will take some brutal hit, some agony-of-defeat type of spill, but pop back up and go on with it, never mind the jagged jutting bone ends and trailing strings of gristle hanging out of their wounds. I cannot believe any sane person would willingly subject themselves to such punishment … the drive to compete, to win, to stay in the game, can only go SO far, folks, really, c’mon.

Then I get a new Monica O’Rourke book and I find myself doing the psychic equivalent of the same damn thing.

Again. Over and over. I never learn. I even, in some sick masochistic way, enjoy the torture. It’s torn ligaments, and dislocated joints of the mind. Plus, I think I pulled whatever muscles control flinching and cringing.

She is vicious. Wrath James White’s intro to this collection warns you. He is a hundred percent correct on all points, from her razor-like precision of prose to the wicked little smiling gleam in her eyes. This is some next-level (bleep) right here.

Do NOT be fooled because it starts off with a couple of poems! Do NOT be one of those people who dismisses poems as frou-frou. They are powerful, effective, and somehow all the creepier because of the spareness of form.

But, if it’s denser, detailed narrative you crave, you’ll find plenty of that too (and might regret it!) Several of these stories will have you crossing your legs or pressing your knees together, no matter what your personal anatomy. “Jasmine and Garlic,” “Asha” and “Attainable Beauty” for the ladies, “Oral Mohel,” “Someone’s Sister” and “An Experiment in Human Nature” for the gents … equal opportunity screaming horror for the fun-bits.

There’s zombies, and babies, and zombie babies … child abuse and cannibalism … freaky fetishes, haunted revenge, hells on earth … just all kinds of evil goodness guaranteed to reduce the strongest spirit to a whimpering wreck.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I shall resume my usual post-Monica posture of rocking back and forth in the corner ...

-Christine Morgan


OASIS OF THE DAMNED by Greg F. Gifune (to be released 12/9/14 by DarkFuse / 76 pp / eBook)

Former soldiers Owens and Richter find themselves in the Sahara desert. Both became lost during post-military jobs, and are now unable to find a way out of their isolated location.The only thing keeping them alive in the blistering heat is an abandoned outlook post that sits over a spring. The post also has edible military rations and a seemingly endless supply of functional (but old) weapons.

And that's a good thing, because when the sun goes down, shape-shifting creatures rise from the sand, looking to devour our protagonists the same way they did Owens' crew. And the more they learn about them, the more Owens and Richter struggle...

Despite taking place in the desert, OASIS OF THE DAMNED is a claustrophobic nightmare that's as psychologically grueling as it is physically. Gifune blends modern horror with a Twilight Zone feel and delivers an irresistible novella you'll rip through in one heart-pounding sitting. Intense stuff without being overly graphic.

-Nick Cato


TWISTED by Michaelbrent Collings (to be released 12/9/14 by Amazon Digital / 319 pp / eBook)

Those Victorians … so different from us … in their day, ruffled chair skirts were invented to keep those shocking bare furniture legs from display, and the term “stuffing” was considered too vulgar for polite dinner conversation (the things one randomly picks up during holiday season cooking shows). And yet, they were into that whole death photography thing, which strikes most of us these days as morbid to say the least.

Morbid to say the least, and even downright ghoulish when it involves children. Heck, some studio baby portraits are disturbing enough anyway, let alone with dead kids! I mean, okay, on the one hand I can understand it, the use of closure, the wanting something to remember them by, but …

Yeeeesh. And this book starts off with excerpts from a fictional case study of a photographer who was not content merely to pose his unfortunately young models, but ensure their steady supply. Against that historical specter, we have an ordinary modern family, Blake and Alyssa Douglas, their son Mal, and newborn Ruthie.

An ordinary family with ordinary worries – money, job security, a life-threatening neonatal crisis, the looming violent legacy of abuse – that then has to deal with even more extraordinary ones. Like the sudden, inexplicable crawling infestation from under Mal’s bed. It sends them fleeing to temporary lodgings while their home is fumigated, only to quickly discover that the new place is … not quite right.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s a gorgeous house, available for rent at a bargain price, fully furnished with lovely antiques. If the grandfather clock’s ticking reverberates throughout … if the music box has a tendency to start playing for no reason … if objects disappear or reappear, or the occasional strange footstep is heard …

Well, it is only for a few days, right? And it’s not like they can afford a hotel. It’s not like they have many other options. Sure, it’s stressful; the whole situation is stressful, taking its toll on each of them. Some irritability, some personality changes, trouble sleeping, nightmares, these things happen. Nothing to get too worked up over.

Uh-huh. So they keep telling themselves, after Alyssa finds the photo album of the dead, after a courier delivers a package and then totally freaks out at something he sees. Nothing to get worked up over. So they keep telling themselves, until it’s too late.

Part ghost story and part history, part parental terrors made real and part paranormal activity, the resulting combination is all goosebump-raising nerve-squirming chills. Another solid winner from an author who’s yet to miss the mark.

-Christine Morgan

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