‘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.*

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-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 – 

Amazon.co.uk

Amazon.com

Goodreads.com

 

 

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 –

Amazon.co.uk

Amazon.com

Goodreads.com

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

Goodreads.com

 

 

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?

‘Silence in the Woods’ by J.P. Choquette – Review

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

****

 

Paul sank back onto his bed, stared up at the spiderweb cracks in the high ceiling above. Many of the aides and nurses were kind at the hospital. But a handful were not and the night monitor for Ward III  was one of these. Truthfully, it made no difference to Paul whether the other man screamed the night away or not. He hadn’t slept a full night in weeks. When he’d first arrived he’d been in so much pain he hadn’t been lucid. Later, after the medicines wee decreased, he was able to get his bearings… and almost wished for the sweet oblivion the tiny pills had offered. 

But he couldn’t – wouldn’t – allow himself the luxury. Whenever he closed his eyes he saw the horror he’d witnessed deep in the wood again and again. The same images would flicker, an endless loop. The two couples – he and Jane, Allen and Deirdre – in the woods, always dark and twisted, like ghostly photographs from long ago. Then the blood on the ground, a body swinging and stiff at the end of the makeshift noose –

No. 

Paul sat up, putting his feet on the bare, cold floor underneath him. Timmy let out a partial giggle and Paul glanced over. The big man was so large his bulk didn’t fit on the bed. A roll of flesh, soft and white like dough, flopped over the side of his cot. His face was serene, full-mooned, with his lips parted in a smile. Even in sleep, Timmy was happy and blessedly oblivious. Paul envied the big man. His childlike mind meant that he never fully grasped the harsh realities of life. 

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Synopsis (Taken from Goodreads) –

In 1917, four friends and photojournalists set out in the woods looking for answers. Why have so many hikers and hunters gone missing in the area of Shiny Creek Trail?

The two couples anticipate a great adventure, one they’ll tell their kids about someday. No one imagines the evil lurking in a remote cave. A horrifying discovery leaves one person dead and two others missing.

Two months later, Paul, one of the four, returns to the forest to find his wife. But will he find her before someone—or something—finds him?

Silence in the Woods is the long-awaited prequel to Shadow in the Woods and delves into the frightening territory of the supernatural and the human mind

 

Thoughts –

Silence in the Woods starts off with our main character Paul and a high tension escape from the mental asylum he’s been in for the past six weeks, circa 1917. Paul, his wife Jane, and their friends Allan and Deirdre, went hiking in the woods and only Paul managed to get back out again, adamant that some kind of creature killed his friends, but unable to accept the fact that his wife might be dead even after all this time (possibly) alone in the wilderness. Is Paul deranged or is he telling the truth? Is there a creature in the woods and is it the same one that took the hikers they went up there to research? No matter the answers you are now along for the ride with Paul on this treacherous journey mired by shadow, danger and mystery.

The pacing of Silence in the Woods is exemplary. Switching between November Paul and his trek to get back to where he last saw his friends and hopefully find them alive, and September Paul and Co. as they reach the trail and the cave they settle in at the beginning of their journey, both sides of the story unravel together leaving no room for a sagging middle section to this novel. However, exposition and character development aren’t left by the wayside to accommodate the fast pace either. Choquette’s writing is skillful and enthralling, creating believable and sympathetic characters whose motivations are clear when they need to be and ambiguous when it suits. Her switching of point of view and time jumps, which are both difficult devices to get right at times, brings the story to life and gives the novel dimensions that would sorely be missed if this were a linear novel.

The ‘creatures’ in the story representing an inhuman good and evil are not thoroughly explained and can only be judged by how they interact with the small group. A cave with strange markings that infiltrate the mind, a shadow creature that brings out the worst in people, a humanoid with intelligent eyes and a knack for showing up just in the nick of time. Our small group of photojournalists are thrust into the centre of a tug of war they could have never imagined, and their own insecurities are brought to the surface by the monsters they struggle against. Infidelity, inferiority, lies, and love all come to light in the darkness of that cave, and the reader is delicately led through the minds of the group as they unravel and change for better or for worse.

The setting of this story is mostly a cave, and the back sections of that cave that go deeper than the group imagined and this gives the story a timeless and isolating feeling. There’s old stone furniture used at one point giving the impression that the group are only one small link in a chain of darkness and violence that has been going on for possibly centuries. Nature as an immutable force that holds secrets humanity has forgotten, perhaps willingly, is a theme through this story and one that makes the characters of Paul, Jane, Allan, and Deirdre seem like pawns in an unfortunate game that they didn’t sign up for. This story will make you think twice before stepping into the woods again.

Silence In The Woods is a story of relentless perseverance, of human curiosity, and of the strange and unexplained creatures that can warp our minds so easily. Fast paced and carefully written, a prequel that only wets the appetite for the next book in line, Silence In The Woods will leave you shivering, wondering, and eager for the next leg of the journey.

 

About the Author –

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J. P. Choquette is an author of thriller novels from Vermont who enjoys writing about stories that tie in art, nature, and psychology. When not writing she spends time watching Gothic movies, spending time with her family, or visiting old cemeteries. You can find out more about her and her work from her website jpchoquette.me

 

Links to Buy and Review – 

Amazon.co.uk

Amazon.com

Goodreads.com

 

Is Bigfoot good or evil in your mind? What’s your favourite scary story set in the woods? Do you find time jumps confusing or intriguing?

‘Urntold Tales of Horror and Dread’ by JB Lovet – Review

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

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I can’t sleep yet. The gap in the wall is howling quietly again. That large tree in the garden is making sharp, creepy shapes on the wall. Kris always likes the curtains open. 

The howl from the gap starts to rumble and becomes a low growl. I freeze, my eyes fixed on that corner of the room. From just under the covers, I see it. 

Long, shadowy arms emerge from the dark gap. It’s fingers splayed and strained as it clings to the wall. Those arms hauled a tall, thin, bald man in a black suit out from that dark place. Horrendously elongated in every aspect. Every aspect except for his head, which is so massive and circular it’s a wonder his emaciated frame can hold it up. His eyes are a pure white; glowing even.

I watch him as he stoops to avoid hitting the ceiling. Despite his awkward form, he moved slowly. Effortlessly. His arms and hands searching the room and clinging to pieces of furniture as he glides towards us. All of this done in near silence. Only the gentle creaking of floorboards and furniture as he moves. 

****

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Synopsis –

Marketed as 13 stories when actually its more like 15, Urntold Tales of Horror and Dread is a well curated collection of short stories and flash fiction that range from deranged psychopaths to creeping dread filled monsters.

 

Thoughts –

Urntold Tales of Horror and Dread (and yes that spelling is correct) started as online uploads of fiction stories from author J.B. Lovet, the positive reception of which pushed them enough to publish them as a collection. Described as 13 Tales, when in fact number 13 is actually an explanation for the inclusion of the next few, in actual fact you are getting 15 dark stories in this slim volume. I guess 13 just feels like a much better number to have for a horror collection. Lovet also states, quite honestly, that they don’t believe the stories would be read otherwise, so why not include them? This honesty is refreshing and endearing and though I feel the subsequent stories would have fit fine with the collection proper, I understand the hesitation and hey – extra stories!

**

I felt the rush of water into my ears, for a moment nothing but that boom of noise as it hits your eardrums. Then I could hear wailing. Wailing and screaming. Screaming out of anger. In the water I swear I could see faces. Tortured, violent. Through the barest glints of light I could almost make out these arms tightly wound around me, the pressure of their vice-like hands. 

**

Ranging from subtle psychological dread to violent and unhinged psychopaths, Urntold Tales of Horror and Dread shows the value of a well-crafted short story and the impact a flash fiction piece can have when the dread runs deep. I liked this collection not only for the fact that I had an excuse to use all my extra teeth in the photos, but also that the concepts for the stories were unique and often so unsettling that they are still running around in my mind. ‘The Milkshake Man‘ is one of the creepiest weirdos I’ve read about and the story of ‘The Gap in The Wall‘, where I took the first quote up there from, genuinely made my skin crawl when I read it, and this is not a usual thing for me when reading fiction. I love to read dark stories, but I mainly just smile at the skill, I rarely get goosebumps or the urge to look over my shoulder – I made sure my wardrobe doors were firmly shut after I read that one.

**

Noise exploded as every telephone in the office began ringing. They wouldn’t stop. It was deafening. A reverberating siren in his ears, like standing next to a car alarm. The row of light at the far end of the office turned on. No one was there, but Rob could’ve sworn he saw a flicker of a shadow for a split-second. 

“Hello? I-is someone there?”

**

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Urntold Tales of Horror and Dread is a collection you should absolutely have on your shelf. Whether you are a reader, a writer, or both, this is a concise collection of skillfully crafted stories. Trimmed down to the bare essentials, there’s no fat on the bones of this collection, and those bones are dreadful.

 

About the Author –

(As written at the end of this collection)

 

JB Lovet began writing horror stories to share with online communities.

But it doesn’t matter too much who wrote all this…

Frankly if this lazy son of a gun can bumble through a dream of having stories in print, you can achieve your dreams, too. So go do it.

 

Links to Buy and Review –

Amazon.co.uk

Amazon.com

Goodreads.com

 

Are there any collections or novels you love that started on the internet? Do you prefer short stories or flash fiction? What is your favourite short horror story? Let me know down below!