‘Hollow’ by Rhonda Parrish – YA Horror Review

*Disclaimer – I was given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.*

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“Running helps.

It’s a soothing, strenuous sort of relaxation that clears my mind until all that’s left is sound. My feet hitting the pavement, my breathing loud in my ears, and an occasional bird. The sound of traffic is a dull hum in the background but I haven’t seen a moving vehicle the whole time I’ve been running laps. It’s getting late. The sky is bruising and the streetlights are coming on, but their light is dim.

I can smell autumn’s bite in the air. I’m too warmed up from my workout to feel it, and my hoodie is tied around my waits, its hem slapping against the back of my knees as I run.

Left-right, left-right, one-two, one-two. I focus on those numbers like I never do in math class, letting each one grow to fill my mind and push everything else out.

As I round the northwest corner of the decrepit hospital grounds a voice slips through the barrier I’ve erected around my thoughts. A very specific voice.

Keith’s voice.

“Shit.” I glance one way and then the other. Sound is weird around my neighbourhood, the old hospital and its outbuildings grab noises and toss them around like finger bones in a witchdoctor’s spell.

Then I catch sight of him, him and his friends. They’ve turned the corner across the street and are walking toward me.

If you’ve gotta go down, go down fighting. That’s what my Mom used to say.

Willing myself to ignore them, I fasten my eyes on a distant light pole and keep running. My jaw is clenched so tight each step jars my teeth, and the block, which is only doubly long on this side of the hospital, has never felt so huge before. I just want to go home.

The chant begins in my brain, replacing the counting, the left-right of my feet. I want to go home. Go home. Go home.

The boys’ conversation stops and, after a brief, is replaced by whistles and cat calls. Keith, Darian and Simon are hooting and whistling like a crew of construction workers. Assholes.

“Lookin’ good, Morgan,” one of them – Darian – hollers.

I feel the heat of embarrassment flood my face and force myself not to look down. Not to let them see how much they are getting to me.

“Run, run, run,” Keith shouts. And though the words are benign, it is him saying them, and the tone he uses colours them and turns them into something dirty. Something shameful.

I should have run that day. But I didn’t. Maybe this is my penance.”

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Synopsis –

A car accident shattered sixteen-year-old Morgan’s family. Now her brother’s dead, her mom’s paralyzed in more ways than one, her dad lives at work and her seven-year-old sister Amy tries too freaking hard to salvage everything. What’s more, high school is its own special kind of hell, where her ex-boyfriend delights in spreading rumors that shred her reputation and make her feel like a loser. When she finds an old camera in a creepy abandoned hospital, it seems like her luck is finally changing. And it is changing–from bad to worse. Because of course it is. Each time Morgan photographs one of her classmates they become corrupted versions of themselves. It’s like the camera steals their goodness, their essence, and leaves them hollow.

Then her sister uses the camera to take a selfie.

No matter what the cost, Morgan will find a way to reverse the effects of the cursed camera and save Amy, before her already-fractured family completely self-destructs

 

Thoughts –

A sensitive YA novel that follows a teenage girl in the aftermath of a car accident that is tearing her family apart, Hollow deals with themes of grief, sexual assault, family, and the darker side of the human psyche. For Morgan dealing with bullying and slut shaming she is looking for a way out of the difficult times she is in, trying desperately to claw her way back to normalcy and take care of her younger sister as her parents wallow in their own grief. Dealing with school life and a best friend feeling neglected, our protagonist has a lot on her plate and the heavy burden, much like the burden of a camera capable of bringing out the worst in her family and friends, Morgan proves a believable and strong protagonist that young readers can relate to.

An engaging story that shows the teenage characters in a realistic and emotional light, Hollow has achieved what it set out to do. For a YA audience this book is well-paced though more explanation could have been given for some of the more surreal scenes, however this did not detract from the overall impression of Hollow.

 

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A short yet impactful read, Hollow leaves the reader with the hope that unfortunate circumstances can be made better by the choices we make.

About the Author –

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Rhonda Parrish is driven by a desire to do All The Things. She founded and ran Niteblade Magazine, is an Assistant Editor at World Weaver Press and is the editor of several anthologies including, most recently, Earth: Giants, Golems and Gargoyles, and Grimm, Grit and Gasoline. In addition, Rhonda is an award-winning writer whose short work has been in publications such as the Rhysling Anthology and Imaginarium: The Best Canadian Speculative Writing (2012 & 2015). Her YA Thriller, Hollow and her paranormal non-fiction title, Eerie Edmonton are both coming in 2020.

Her website, updated regularly, is at http://www.rhondaparrish.com

 

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What’s your favourite YA horror novel? Do you think YA should stay away from heavy themes such as sexual assault? Let me know down below!

‘Savage Days’ by Kyle Van Dongen – Review

*Disclaimer – I was given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.*

****

 

The others said it came after dark, but Maisie wasn’t taking any chances. She carried a machete in a sheath strapped to her leg. The sound of its handle clicking against her belt should’ve empowered her, but instead it taunted. She’d never handled a weapon like this before, nor was she confident she’d be capable if the time came. 

It was a dreary, late autumn evening in Essex County. Distant rain clouds added a modicum of diversity to an otherwise colourless sky. A rolling field of dried corn stalks separated Maisie’s ramshackle farmhouse from the edge of a dark forest. 

Through narrowed eyes, she surveyed the motionless tree line. Shade from the canopy made it difficult to see farther than a few meters inside. For all she knew that damned beast hid just out of sight, waiting for the opportune moment to strike. 

Maisie cradled a heft wicker basket under her arm, supporting its curved brim against her hip as she tugged at the squeaky clothesline. Like everything else on the farm, it needed replacing. 

“Mommy, come push me,” a child’s voice called. 

Adelyn wore a frilly white dress embroidered with flowers. The spotless fabric flapped in the wind as she swung on a rickety swing set. She looked like she’d traveled here from another time, from a world Maisie never knew. 

“I’ll be right there,” she responded. 

The swing set stood next to the house, no more than six meters from the back door. Maisie felt certain that if the creature attacked, she could but her daughter enough time to get inside. Whether the dilapidated building would offer much protection however, was another story. 

It wasn’t that Maisie hadn’t tried to re-enforce the place. She’d boarded every window and installed makeshift crossbar brackets on both doors. Her handiwork wasn’t the problem so much as a lack of suitable materials. The old picnic table in the backyard became the first sacrifice, and since then she’d taken to prying up her bedroom floor. Unfortunately, most of these planks, regardless of their source, were already rotting long before she nailed them into place. 

 

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Synopsis –

Residents of a small farming community, already struggling to survive in the aftermath of nuclear war, are faced with a new threat when a terrifying creature emerges from the woods and snatches a child from her bed. A trio of broken people, including the missing girl’s grief-stricken mother, an aging scavenger, and a surly hunter, must learn to work together and utilize their limited resources to slay the beast and return peace to the community.

 

Thoughts –

Savage Days is a post-apocalyptic novel that explores the inherent human need for community and companionship struggling with the basic need to survive. Our trio of characters are well rounded, individually motivated, and fighters to the end. Young Maisie staying alive for her daughter, Benjamin and his love of music working for the community that shunned him to protect themselves, and the skilled hunter Caleb finding his place after the death of his ‘doomsday prepper’ father. A mis-matched team with their own agendas, all secretly wishing to find a friend but in the open, defensive for the sake of survival, leads to an unpredictable and often twisting hunt that threatens to get them all killed at every turn. The question is, is community more important than individual survival? And is survival for survivals sake, worth the effort?

Savage Days is a novel carried by the strength of the characters within it. Set in an America ravaged by looters, mutated humans and animals alike, and small farming communities struggling to return to a sense of normalcy for the sake of their children. Opening with their worst fears coming true – the thieving of a child in the night by a monster no one has seen – a harrowing journey is undertaken to stop this monster and keep the fearful community together. Van Dongen writes with skill and the careful treatment of his characters brings their stories to life. Using a well worn trope and breathing new life into radiated lungs, Savage Days is a novel waiting for a second or even a third reading.

 

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Savage Days is a story that will have you hooked from the very first page, and keep you hooked long after you’ve turned the last. Van Dongen will surely be a name to watch.

 

About the Author –

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Kyle Van Dongen is a dark fiction writer from Canada. Savage Days is his first published novel and you can find him on Twitter here.

 

Read and Review –

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Are you a fan of post-apocalyptic fiction? What’s your favourite type of global destruction? Is setting or character more important when dealing with this genre? Let me know down below!

‘Dreams of Lake Drukka & Exhumation’ (Short Sharp Shocks! Book 31) by Mike Thorn – Review

*Disclaimer – I was given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.*

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Sharla didn’t need to glance at the passenger seat to know what Jeannette was doing – mouthing patronizing words, gazing out the window with an expression of exaggerated defeat. Siblings have a special intuition for these things. 

She clutched the wheel tighter. 

When Sharla had first called to propose the trip, Jeannette had shouted a familiar routine – “Just in case you forgot about the coroner’s report, the newspaper articles, and the goddamn funeral, let me spell it out for you again: Mom drank too much, made the boozey choice to go swimming alone at night, and straight-up drowned. There’s no mystery about it. Dad told us all about Mom’s problem – the bottles of vodka hidden under her socks in the bedside table drawer, how she used to sneak out to the garage in the middle of the night while she thought he was asleep…” 

Sharla had listened quietly and patiently, even as her body tensed with the urge to hurl her phone at the nearest wall. 

When Jeannette had finally finished rattling off, Sharla said it again: “If you refuse to join, I’ll make the trip alone. I just thought you should know either way.”

 

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Synopsis (from Goodreads) –

“Dreams of Lake Drukka” and “Exhumation” explore the unearthing of horrific, long-buried family secrets. Journeying into the darkest recesses of the past, these stories depict the dire consequences of discovering the truth.

 

Thoughts –

This is a duo of brutal stories from writer Mike Thorn. Tied together by the theme of fulfilling a debt to a supernatural creature, the stories differ on their endings between hope for the future and dread. Dreams of Lake Drukka leans heavily on the relationship between sisters Sharla and Jeanette and the struggles they’ve faced in their family since the untimely death of their mother. One thinks it was a tragic accident that happened to a struggling alcoholic, the other thinks their father murdered her. After Sharla has a vivid dream replaying her mother’s death, Jeanette agrees to take one last trip with her to the lake where their mother died in the hopes that her sister can finally get the closure she needs and mend their relationship with their father. Thorn handles the relationship between these women in a wholesome and realistic way, but he also creates great action in the climax of this short story that packs a punch at the end.

Exhumation is the story of a man attending the funeral of a cousin he once played with when he was young. After attracting the attention of another attendee who he does not recognise, but insists they know each other, he tries to leave and is accosted and forced to remember what really happened between him, his cousin, and the insisting man. Again utilising action in this story, Thorn draws the reader in with a hint of mystery and insufficient memories to end the story with a brutal realisation – you can never escape your past.

 

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A duo of stories that are short enough to enjoy on your lunch break but rich enough to revisit, Dreams of Lake Drukka and Exhumation make Mike Thorn a name to watch in the future.

 

About the Author (from Goodreads)-

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Mike Thorn is the author of Darkest Hours and Dreams of Lake Drukka & Exhumation. His fiction has appeared in numerous magazines, anthologies and podcasts, including Dark Moon DigestThe NoSleep PodcastTurn to Ash and Tales to Terrify. His film criticism has been published in MUBI NotebookThe Film StageThe Seventh RowBright Lights Film Journal and Vague Visages. He completed his M.A. with a major in English literature at the University of Calgary, where he wrote a thesis on epistemophobia in John Carpenter’s Prince of Darkness. Visit his website or follow him on Twitter.

 

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How do you feel about duel stories? Would you prefer more bitesize outside of novels and novellas? Let me know down below!

‘The Third Corona Book of Horror’ Edited by Lewis Williams – Review

*Disclaimer – I was given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.*

****

 

-Curious, If Anything-

Cold linoleum under his feet, Babafemi stood there. Not frightened but curious, if anything. Pale light of early morning crept through the awning window over the bathtub and chased away the last of the bathroom’s shadows, and it was there in that room of grimy and green chequered tile that, rather than run, Babafemi raised a hand to the tuft of his greying beard, stroking it in contemplation. 

Ghost.

Really?

The dark-skinned body in the bathtub lay there, sightless – and had it been a real dead body, Babafemi most likely would have run. Not because he was scared of dead bodies, but more because he;d be scared that someone had left a dead body in his home, and as a result, it would make sense to leave before the killer came back. Assuming, of course, that the killer had left. All of these thoughts fluttered through Babafemi’s mind in moments, bringing him back to the present. 

The body lying in the bathtub, one leg handing over the side, the head resting against the side of the hot water tap. A body tat he could see through, and despite the darkness of its skin – or at least what would pass for skin – he could still see through it: see the outline of the bathtub, the tiling above the rub. 

Babafemi already knew it was a ghost since the body was see-through. Unlike many other who may have claimed that they had seen a ghost, or at least felt a ghostly presence, Babafemi was sure that he had encountered supernatural phenomena throughout his years. Early childhood long ago in Nigeria had shown him the ugly side of human nature and desensitised him to death. Later life in London led him to flirt with the supernatural, or certainly with those things that would make others uncomfortable. Time spent in a cemetery at night – back when cemeteries were unlocked and desecration was unheard of – yielded shivers from nothing except freezing cold temperatures among the headstones. Nothing went bump in the night then. Later life (and residences) in London, back when life had left him to adapt to the challenges of marriage, children, divorce and more, had provided more encounters: the sense of being watched by someone or something. Certainly nothing malevolent, but more in the way a curious family pet will watch its human masters before going its own way. And likewise, there was nothing to fear. 

But a ghost?

 

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Synopsis –

The Third Corona collection of horror stories picked from over eight hundred submissions. From ghosts to killers, monsters to curses – this collection has a wide variety of horror to disturb, disgust, and delight any horror reader.

 

Thoughts –

This is an independent collection that was picked from over eight hundred submissions, and you can see that in the quality of the writing and the stories held within. Not every one of them is a hit – there are one or two misses – however the overall quality of the collection is a pleasure to read. Stories in particular that stand out are ‘Curious, If Anything’ where the quote from above is taken, the story of a man who finds a ghost in his bathtub but rather than be afraid is curious to find out who the ghost is only to find that he doesn’t like the answer. There also ‘The Haunting of April Heights’ a modern gothic that takes place in a block of English flats, and ‘Murderabilia’ a collector who finds himself with the opportunity to buy evidence from the much to recent murders of an active serial killer.
The perspectives of this collection are unique, they take familiar tales and look at them from an angle not expected, interesting point of views and an array of material from ghosts to curses to AI. Would recommend for new and seasoned readers of horror.

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About the Editor (from Goodreads) –

They say to be a successful author you should pick one genre and stick to it. Lewis Williams hasn’t exactly followed that advice: having written his first book on the singer Scott Walker, he followed that with a serious academic work on social policy, which he then followed with a trilogy of limerick books that were absolutely, categorically nothing remotely like his earlier books. His latest book projects include a revised and updated edition of Scott Walker: The Rhymes of Goodbye (published Plexus, London 2019) and editing all three volumes of the Corona Book of Horror Stories book series, including 2019’s The Third Corona Book of Horror Stories with stories selected from over 800 submissions.

Lewis has two degrees in philosophy (which number might be considered two too many) and worked for a number of years in a number of different roles for Oxford University before his ignominious departure from its employ. You can find out more about him by visiting his website www.lewiswilliams.com

Links to Buy and Review – 

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Do you collect horror anthologies? What’s your favourite collection? Let me know down below!

‘Vultures’ by Grant Palmquist – Review

*Disclaimer – I was given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.*

****

At ten o’clock, Trent Sable grabbed the revolver, shoved it in the back of his pants, slipped on his latex gloves, and took the black balaclava from his duffel bag. He stepped out into the humid June night, and sweat rolled from his pores like wax down a melting candlestick. Mosquitoes buzzed around him. One of them landed on his forearm and sucked at his skin. Trent pulled a Marlboro 100 and chrome lighter with Trent etched into it from his pocket, lit a cigarette, breaking his two-a-day habit, and brought the cherry to the mosquito on his arm. It curled into a dry, dead ball and rolled into oblivion, then Trent made his way down the stairs, the wood creaking beneath each step. He could see the light of the Stop ‘N Shop sign by the moonlight, its fading yellow background flickering off and on.

Almost closing time.

The parking low was empty, and the man who owned the place was probably busy cleaning up inside. Trent looked up and down the street to make sure no cars were coming, and he gripped the balaclava tightly in his clammy hand, ready to draw it over his face. He reached the edge of the parking lot, gravel crunching beneath his feet. The smell of exhaust still hung in the air. Trent spotted puddles of gasoline near the gas pumps and dragged on his cigarette as he passed them, imagining someone drenched in fluid, begging Trent fore help, only to find himself ignited in flames a few seconds later.

Trent laughed to himself.

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Synopsis –

Heath is a family man with a nine to five job, a wife that he loves, and a teenage daughter going through a breakup and the

Trent is a sociopathic killer intent on proving himself a god and uprooting the laws of society. Trent picks Heath and his family as a target and stalks them relentlessly. What happens when chaos targets a middle class family? Can they survive the violence?

Thoughts –

I found a fun thing to do with this book! Here’s a drinking game you can play while reading. Drink when

– eyes are referred to as orbs

– you see the word phantasmagoria

– some ‘gets acclimated’ to sudden light or dark

– a random snake shows up

– Trent seems aroused but then blankly states that he can’t get aroused

– Victoria ignores blatant and immediate danger

– someone is clearly being followed but just shrugs and carries on anyway

– Trent swings ‘up and down’ on the swing

(Please be aware that if you play this game you will die because at least four of these happen in every single chapter)

First of all I would like to say that the general writing of the book is well done, Palmquist has a voice and he uses it and the sentence by sentence structure is well done. It was an easy book to read and if you are interested in synopsis of the book, I would say you should give it a try, however there were a few things that stuck in my teeth like a popcorn kernel, but I wouldn’t say this is a bad book, just possibly a confusing one.

So Vultures sets itself up as some kind of stalker story and I actually got the impression that maybe the family would be held captive in the house by the sociopath and that would be the majority of the novel. I’m not entirely sure where I got this idea from, maybe because Trent wants to destroy their ‘home and family’, so that assumption is on me. However, I did expect more to happen in the actual book than what did.

Without spoilers, there are two deaths pretty early on and this gives the impression that the story will ramp up to something, but the energy fizzles out very quickly after the second woman is brutally killed. I’d like to also point out that Heath the family man with a lovely wife and daughter, doesn’t seem to like women very much. He had a vendetta against Gloria (personally that hurt to read) at work and seems obsessed with hating her, and when he is blackmailed for the murder of another woman who’s body he wakes up beside, he never gives a single thought for the life of that woman. He never even thinks ‘that could be Yvonne or Victoria’, nope, he only cares about his own reputation which doesn’t fit with the character, or at least what we are supposed to believe about the character. Not to mention when Gloria goes missing, it seems more like he’s missing the conflict rather than actually concerned about her well being.

Heath as a character is completely caught up in his own insecurities and anger. Throughout the book he completely leaves his wife in the dark even after it would be far more beneficial to tell her. When it is one hundred percent clear that a verified killer is stalking your family, you tell your wife and daughter, you don’t leave them alone in the house, and you don’t let them leave under any circumstances. Heath just kind of… worries, without telling either of them. And Yvonne, his wife, is characterised as a submissive, loving but unquestioning wife even when her husband disappears for forty eight hours and is acting the weirdest he’s ever acting in their entire marriage. She’s basically not there for the entire story.

Victoria is, for the most part, is an ordinary seventeen year old. Trent tries to seduce her and it’s believable that in her fragile emotional state that she would fall for him, if it weren’t for the fact that he is completely devoid of any charm whatsoever. Serial killers, historically, are known to be very charming but Trent is just boring and mean and Victoria’s obsession with him is unbelievable to me as a reader. There are sermons scattered throughout from the family going to church, the book that I will be honest I mainly skipped because I did my time in church and the first few it wasn’t relevant to the plot of the story. At the end of church one day, for seemingly no reason Victoria declares that her goal in life is to have children. ???? Like, fine if you want to have children, but it was unprompted and told to her father, also at the beginning of the story she says she pledged her virginity to her father (promises her father she won’t have sex until she is married) which is uncomfortable to say the least.

But obviously the family aren’t devout Christians as Heath doesn’t seem to care about the deaths of the women around him. And a main theme in this book is masculinity and what it means. Trent believes he is a true man because he murders, and Heath feels emasculated because he doesn’t? Like you can’t be masculine unless you are violent. And you aren’t truly feminine unless you give birth?

There’s a lot of following but no reacting, there’s a lot of overlapping text conversations that didn’t need to be repeated. What could have been a great standoff between an average man protecting his family and a crazed sociopath hellbent on ruining societal norms, ended up being a strange squaring up that lasted way longer than it needed too, ironically showing two people who are too caught up in stereotypes about masculinity they forget to act out those very violent stereotypes at all.

Vultures is not badly written, but a confused book that is aspiring to greater themes than it displays. There are confused statements about masculinity and femininity and there isn’t as much of a showdown as was promised. Also a lot of ‘society are all zombies who don’t feel anymore’ talk which gets old quick.

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About the Author –

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Grant Palmquist is a writer of dark fiction and horror writer who doesn’t have any bios online that I can find.

Links to Buy and Review –

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Do you like serial killer horrors? What’s your favourite stalked family story? How do you feel about blatant societal narratives in horror?

‘Nomad’ by Jamie Nash – Review

*Disclaimer – I was given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.*

****

 

I’m drowning in blood. 

My brain screams. My feet sprint beneath me, but I go nowhere. I’m paddling, flailing, in a red stew that burns my eyes like an over-chlorinated YMCA pool. 

Chemicals. Fuck. I’m breathing chemicals. 

My arms slam something hard and cold. I’m inside a box, or a closet, or a cage. It’s curved and smooth. Glass. Thick glass. I’m trapped in a bowl like some stupid tropical fish in an orthodontist’s waiting room. My feet scrape against the floor. It’s grilled. A vent. Or a cheese grater. 

I scream, then gag. Something is lodged deep inside my throat. A long, leathery finger stretches past my tongue and worms deep into my airway. It’s a snake. Shit. There’s a snake in my esophagus. I claw and grab at the thing. It slithers in my hands as its rubbery body worms across my windpipe. Its head hisses and flails deep inside my lungs. I keep pulling, digging. Ten inches of rubbery hose spool out. I fling it away. It dances in the bloody murk, blowing a plume of bubbles from its tip. It’s a tube puffing air, a respirator – the very thing that’s been keeping me alive, and I just tore it out. 

Great work, genius. 

My lungs clench, begging for breath. The crimson liquid floods my mouth, coats my cheeks, clogs my nostrils. The foul liquid burns on my tongue. I wretch. It’s gasoline. I’ve siphoned it before. I remember a cousin getting me to do it. Or was it a brother?

Everything’s fuzzy. My thoughts are like a London fog. My memories…

My memories

Where the hell am I?

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Synopsis –

She wakes up in a tube, encased in liquid, drowning. No name, no memories, and apparently on a spaceship hurtling through space – and there are others too. But escaping the pods was only the beginning and there’s danger around every corner of the spaceship. Our protagonist and her rag tag new friends must survive the next few hours while trying desperately to figure out what is going on and who they can trust. And on top of that there’s someone else on the ship intent on killing them all.

 

Thoughts – 

Waking up with no memories and on a spaceship that you didn’t know could even exist is a fear that most people can relate to. For this novel, Nomad,  it’s a reality for our merry bands of random young people and while there’s definitely horror and violence from the outset, our protagonist has the sense of humour to deal with it.

My one and only peeve for this novel, and I do understand why this was the case and it does help the story, it’s just a pet peeve of mine is – there are no chapter breaks. There are no breaks whatsoever bar one or two little star breaks. I imagine the reason for this is because there are no real time jumps until the sort of epilogue at the end, it’s just a continuous present moment narrative which keeps the pace fast and the action coming and the absence of breaks absolutely works for this, however I personally just like to have clear breaks where I can put the book down for a break particularly as I’ve never been a bookmark person. Works for the book, just not for my tastes.

Jamie Nash is a screenwriter for horror movies and family films, and this definitely comes across in the writing of Nomad, but rather than bring out you out of the novel medium, it keeps the break neck pace of the story. This is an exciting and enjoyable novel to read, but you can also see this working absolutely as a television series or even a movie. Yet, it isn’t all about action and visuals, there’s exposition and character development, there’s mystery and a spotted backstory that helps to merge novel with screenplay perfectly.

Our main character (who at one point christens herself Dorothy) is a funny, awkward, and brave protagonist who brings the reader through the story in her unique perspective. In the few hours of her life that you spend with her, she makes friends, loses friends, realises that not everyone can be a friend and is a likeable and comfortable character to head the story of Nomad. Her dark humour is a great contrast to the very real horrors that are happening around her.

Nomad is an adrenaline fueled  sci-fi horror survival story of a woman trying to piece together her past on an alien spaceship. At a pace that will pull the skin off your skull, you’ll tear through this book.

 

About the Author –

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(Taken from the book) Jamie Nash has written for films like V/H/S/2, Exists, Lovely Molly, and Altered. He’s worked on the Nickelodeon movies Tiny Christmas and Santa Hunters. He’s the author of the middle-grade book The 44 Rules of Amateur Sleuthing and the co-author of Bunk! He Lives in Ellicott City, MD. You can see more of Nash’s work on his website jamienash.net and can follow him on Twitter and Facebook.

 

Links to Buy and Review –

Amazon.co.uk

Amazon.com

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How do you feel about continuous time in stories? Do you need chapter breaks or some kind of breaks in the writing or are you fine with continuous prose? What is your favourite sci-fi horror story?

‘Various States of Decay’ by Matt Hayward – Review

*Disclaimer – I was given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.*

****

A businessman outside the house at two in the morning made sense in the city, but William lived in the country,  and that made the passerby ever so curious. William parted the curtains slowly, just enough to avoid attention, and breathed through his nose to lessen the condensation on the window. As the man passed the streetlamp, a purple tinge highlighted his suit, and his gait was that of an elderly man with the skin to match. Like a raisin wearing a dollar store three-piece once owned by a pimp. 

The gentleman paused at the mailbox, and William held his breath, letting the blinds fall to a slit. And yet, the businessman (if he could be called such – William imagined that cheap looking briefcase contained blank A4s and half-eaten apple cores opposed to actual documents and contracts) paused and stared at the house. 

William cocked his head, frozen. If the man approached his home, should he rush out and meet him halfway, just in case? But just in case what? The odd timing and strange location surely weren’t enough to justify thoughts of danger, were they? Besides, the man looked old enough to fall asleep standing up, never mind getting a punch to the face. Oh, and that face, like a peanut dropped and covered in fluff from the underbelly of a couch. Still, the gentleman stared at William’s home, and as he did, his shriveled lips curled into a grin. 

Gooseflesh crawled along William’s arms.

[…]

William plucked the letter and worked his nail along the seal, greeted by the subtle scent of perfume. He made his way back to the living room and fell onto the couch, throwing away the envelope as he shook out the paper. 

Dearest William. I’d like to talk to you about our Lord and Savior – Philip. Seven AM, today. I’ll see you shortly, and I should hope for decaf. 

Various States eBook cover

Synopsis –

A collection of no less than twenty stories, including the Irish Short Story of the Year-nominated ‘Intercepting Aisle Nine’, Various States of Decay moves steps comfortably from stories of advertisements invading our dreams, Irish folklore in a modern setting, killer furniture, and the horrors of an early morning Dart journey. Dealing with themes of grief, shame, loss of reality and the overwhelming fear of not being believed, this is a collection that any reader can find themselves in.

 

Thoughts –
First of all, can’t stop staring at that cover design, the colours, the subtle details, and the fact that the upside down bleeding reality of it fits the collection it contains so well. Also, I just fucking love trees.

Stories
There are a few stories in particular that stood out in this collection for me for a variety of reasons. One story that gave me a bit of a Hellboy vibe was Rodent in the Red Room, a story that brings some Irish folklore to a modern world and one I personally hadn’t heard of before but was thoroughly unsettling in it’s insidious nature. Another was titled Knock, Knock simply for the bizarre absurdity of it – a businessman shows up at your countryside home at 2am to preach the word of… Philip? Already terrifying.

The stories in this collection are not repetitive but there are similarities in theme and tone, much needed and often overlooked when putting a collection together. There’s also a few that seem to be linked by a single corporate giant that isn’t exactly ethical. But each story stands on its own, complete and satisfying, and most of all memorable.

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Writing
In the foreword written by Kelli Owen she states that Hayward’s strengths lie in his settings and I would have to agree with that. You never dip your toe in a Hayward story, you plunge flat footed into the deep waters of whatever world he wants you to be in. From dystopian futures to only slightly left-field modern day Ireland, you are right there with the characters and the reality that they can see melting right in front of their eyes.

But Hayward is far from a one-trick pony and though his settings are enthralling, his characters are the anchors that really hold you in the story. Gritty, emotional, and flawed, the protagonists of Hayward’s stories are too real not to be believed. Tired, worried, confused, and in various states of pain as we all are, you get locked into their journeys with them unable to change the trajectory but also unable to look away from the drop there are about to barrel over. All you can do is thank the gods that it isn’t you.

Various States of Decay is a generously thick volume of stories that explore the nature of fear and what it’s like to have your reality turned absolutely upside down. With universal themes of loss, confusion, and the naïve belief that reality is fixed and immutable, Hayward’s writing brings the reader down inexorable paths to devastating ends. For such a long collection I can’t say that there was a miss in the lot, and I’d highly recommend picking up a copy of this today.

 

About the Author –

Matt Hayward

 

Matt Hayward is a Bram Stoker Award-nominated horror author and musician from Ireland. You can find Hayward on Twitter at @MattHaywardIRE and can find his books online at the usual places, I would recommend giving him a go.

 

Links to Buy and Review –

Amazon.co.uk

Amazon.com

Goodreads.com

 

What’s your favourite short story collection? What’s more important to you as a reader enthralling setting or relatable characters?