The Shatter Point by Jon O’Bergh – Review

AFFIDAVIT FOR ADMISSION TO HORROR PLACE:

Horror Place offers an experience that is physically demanding. Therefore, you must be in excellent physical condition. If you have any medical conditions, illnesses, or pregnancy, you will not be allowed entry. The actors will touch you, but you are not allowed to touch the actors. You will also be filmed throughout the ordeal and you consent to these videos being publicly released. You may experience some mild injuries due to the nature of the experience. By signing your name, you understand and accept these conditions. 

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“I think you should do it,” said Jada, fixing her eyes on Asher. 

Brianna looked at Asher sympathetically. “He should only do it if he really wants to. For himself. No one should pressure someone to do it.”

Jada glared at her. Brianna could almost read Jada’s mind and the words ‘stay out of my business, bitch’. She wondered why Jada was insistent that Asher experience Horror Place. She could tell that Jada’s willfulness dominated Asher’s insouciance. Perhaps that was the attraction for Asher, that forceful personality so unlike his own, compensating for something he thought he lacked. Now his motivation for Horror Place became clear to her. Brianna suspected it had not even been his idea. Jada was exciting to be around, no doubt about t. But with that excitement came a touch of danger. That also explained why Megan liked to hang out with Jada. The thrill of risk. Not the risk Brianna had undertaken when she tested herself at Horror Place with a purpose in mind, to make herself stronger, but the risk that hinted at transgression just for the sake of transgression, or simply out of boredom. Brianna’s initial goodwill toward Jada cooled. The girl was clearly trouble, and Brianna’s heart went out to Asher. 

Jada repeated her statement, a little more quietly but with emphasis. “I think he should do it.” 

 

When lives intersect things can get messy. This is no more apparent than in Jon O’Bergh’s novel The Shatter Point. In it, we are led through the lives of he slowly waning romance of Jada and Asher, brought together by their differences and slowly being worn down by them, the troubles of Asher’s band, ‘Lavender Lush’, and the calamity surrounding the newly constructed horror experience known as Horror Place and it’s neighbour’s in such a ‘nice’ neighbourhood. Lives and characters intersect, ghosts from the past are revived to haunt again, anxieties of the future are brought to bear on the present – but who will break first?

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The Shatter Point is a slow burn of a dark thriller intermixed with paranormal and supernatural leanings, ghosts that appear only at the corner of the eyes. O’Bergh cleverly brings this suburban gothic into the twenty first century by blending social media with prose, present anxieties with recurring past traumas, and complex characters. Given that much of the plot is centered around Youtube videos and the glory that comes from impressing thousands of strangers online, or the shame of not impressing them, the story needed social media and the type of commenting that comes with it and O’Bergh was able to capture – usernames and all – the vitriol and one-upmanship that comes with it.

O’Bergh explores many themes, the most noteworthy being the pull of internet stardom and just how fickle audiences can be, failed masculinity as can be seen in many of the character’s need to prove themselves and the women who push them to it, absent fathers, and illusions. When the internet and social media command more of our attention than our own family and friends, how do you know what is real and what is not real? What is constructed for an audience and what is natural? O’Bergh weaves all of these themes through a narrative that works for the transition between characters though at times can be quite restrained. For a novel that deals so eloquently with the comments under Youtube videos, an update of the prose would not have gone amiss.

One thing I can say for The Shatter Point is that it has some twists and turns that I did not see coming. The violence that occurs in the book is inevitable and you can feel it coming for you from the first page like a rolling train, but when it does hit, you will not see where it came from. The shifting perspectives of the story keep it from becoming stale and each character stands on their own. From the manipulative relationship between Jada, Asher and their hanger on Brianna, to the carefully balanced lives that make up a neighbourhood where disrespecting one another’s roses can lead to deep rooted grudges. The Shatter Point smashes together social norms and requirements with our own need to prove ourselves and find out who we really are, and it does so in a sometimes subtle and sometimes unmistakable way.

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I would recommend this book for anyone looking for an intriguing and modern urban thriller. The Shatter Point readily provides believable characters, complex relationships and twists that will leave your jaw on the floor.

About the Author:

Jon O’Bergh is an author and musician from Canada who loves a good scare. He has written two groundbreaking books which link music and stories: “Song of Fire,” a memoir about the role of music in our lives, and the short story collection “A Book of Hauntings.” With the publication of his first novel, “The Shatter Point,” he continues to link music and writing in a unique way. He also co-authored “Elliptical: The Music of Meshell Ndegeocello.”

You can follow him on Goodreads and Twitter.

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Purchase links:

Amazon.co.uk

Amazon.com

Goodreads.com

 

Have you read ‘The Shatter Point’? Do you agree with the inclusion of social media and technology in modern fiction? What do you think is the right way to include them?

If you have a horror/dark fiction/sci-fi/thriller novel, short story, or collection you would like me to review, please get in contact! And don’t forget to follow for more reviews and musings on writing. 

Late Night Partners by Fennel Steuert – Review

“Though they said she never was human, exactly, Doris had held onto the belief otherwise – even as she sat in the back of a wagon with a few pigs being taken along the road southward.

It was a slow ride. She contemplated running, but where could she go? The man at the head of the wagon had a dog with him, and he would certainly set it loose to her. She tried to imagine that being bitten wouldn’t be that bad. This only made her blood run cold, and with that came a kind of numbness, until something large swooped down from a tree onto the man at the reins. His gingerly whistling turned to a yelp. As the dog barked and the pigs squealed, Doris took off. 

Behind her, the dog let out a quick final screech.

Doris ran faster, ably dodging the star-lit silhouettes of the trees. But what was along the ground was another thing. She stumbled over rocks and roots, until something on the ground sent her tumbling to the dirt. When she looked up, all she could see was the silhouette of a man in a tricorn hat. And then the entirety of existence was the fiery pain where his teeth tore at her neck. Her last sight was the bleeding wound formed as the man pressed a pointy finger along the inside of his arm.

 

Synopsis

In Late Night Partners we meet Doris, a victim of the American slave trade, who in her escape attempt, finds more than she bargains for in a contagious bite from a stranger. Cut to the present day and strange things are happening in the city where Doris and her Native American ghoul friend through the ages, Gesine, now live. Human Roger gets pulled into the fray after his elderly uncle Simon, afraid to leave his house because of a mysterious and bloody attack he suffered, and both of them find a world that neither thought was possible before. As the two worlds intertwine, the earthquakes shaking the city turn out to have a supernatural and shocking epicenter. With twists and turns for days, distinct and charming characters.

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What I Liked

What I liked about Late Night Partners was obviously the uniqueness of the story. I’ve never read a novella quite like this, with characters like these, and I’m glad I got the opportunity to do so. There’s no fear for ‘diverse’ characters here, and there never should be, but more importantly there are no stereotypes either. Steuert’s treatment of not only LGBT characters and women of colour was nuanced and enjoyable, as was her treatment of much used creatures such as vampires and ghouls. I was surprised quite a lot in this book by the origins of the characters and their afflictions and the twists that the story too – that ending? Never would have seen it coming in a million years. Late Night Partners is definitely not a story you can walk into assuming anything and that made reading it quite easy to keep the pages turning.

The urban setting was also quite interesting for me. I have only read medieval type fantasy stories before and having this in the setting of a city was quite something different and works quite well I think.

 

What I Didn’t Like

One thing that bothered me in Late Night Partners was the time jumps. Between Doris in her beginning as a vampire and the characters in the present, I often got confused as to where I was supposed to be picturing them. This is something that can easily be fixed with some sub-headings but it did mean some re-reading. I also would have liked to have the romance side of the book explored more, and I am not a romance fan. I just feel like the characters could have been explored more in their interactions with each other, if this was focused on with a little more time it would have added another layer to the story.

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Recommended for:

I would recommend Late Night Partners to someone looking for a light, fantastical read. Anyone who needs another shot of vampires but wants an urban twist to it, and anyone who thinks they always know where the twists are going – you will fail for this one!

Late Night Partners is a new twist on an old tale and if you are looking for a diverse book you should definitely pick this one up. I’ve talked before about the need for more LGBTQ characters in particular in horror and ‘genre’ fiction, you can check out my thoughts on Lesbianism in Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House here.

Purchase Links:

Amazon.co.uk

Amazon.com

Goodreads

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What do you think of modern vampire stories? Do we need more diversity in our fiction? Does the vampire mythology need a new re-vamp? (puns always intended here) Let me know down below!

 

If you have a horror/dark fiction/sci-fi/thriller novel, short story, or collection you would like me to review, please get in contact!

 

 

‘Without Hesitation’ by Talia Jager – Blog Tour (Free Book and Amazon GC Giveaway!)

Woul you like a free book?! Of course you would! To celebrate the newly released ’Painted Skies (Beyond Earth: Book Two)‘ by Talia Jager, the first book in this series is available for free download! Read all about Without Hesitation, download your free copy, and enter the amazing giveaway at the end of this post!

The 1st book in the Beyond Earth Sci-Fi series by author Talia Jager, ‘Without Hesitation’ has been repping the LGBT flag in the adventure aisle since June of last year. Now that book 2, ‘Painted Skies‘ is out, you need to get your hands on the first one FOR FREE to get the full scoop on this interstellar adventure. And read to the bottom to be in with the chance of winning a free copy of ‘Painted Skiestoo!

 

Synopsis:

Without Hesitation is set a thousand years in the future. Earth has become a wasteland. Humans traveled into space to colonize other suitable planets. Labels and stereotypes are a thing of the past and gender and sexual identity are as fluid as love as humans strive to survive. Here we meet Everleigh, the commander of her ship named Nirvana. She is under the control of an evil madman, Caspar, who keeps her family captive. He sends her to Valinor to abduct the Empress Akacia. When she arrives, she is taken aback by Akacia’s beauty and when the Empress fights back, Everleigh realizes she has met her match.

You can add ‘Without Hesitation’ to your Goodreads and I’ve just started a Goodreads account myself, why not add me here

 

*Available for FREE Download Right Now!*

Get your free copy of ‘Without Hesitation’ through these links:

Amazon

Apple

B&N

Google

Kobo

Smashwords

 

 

About the Author

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Talia is no stranger to labels and judgment. She has slowly been developing her voice for those who need help speaking up. She believes that someday labels will be a thing of the past, that sexuality will be fluid, love will be love, and mental illness will be handled with love and care. Talia is an author with fifteen books published including: Damaged: Natalie’s Story, Teagan’s Story: Her Battle With Epilepsy, If I Die Young, Secret Bloodline, Lost and Found, The Gifted Teens Series, The Between Worlds Series and The Beyond Earth Series. When she’s not writing, she enjoys hiking red rocks or sitting on the beach with a Kindle in her hands and her toes in the ocean.

 

Author Links:

To find out more about Talia Jager and her writing you can catch her at the following links:

Website, Blogspot, Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, Pinterest, Instagram, & Goodreads.

And check out some of her Tweets below.

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Excerpt from ‘Without Hesitation’:

Limbs lashed at my legs and arms as I ran through the trees, toward the light. Hugging the shadows, I wove through the forest until I came to the clearing. A female around my age in a black protective suit stood there checking some kind of device in her hand.

She was beautiful. Her hair was just as long as mine, but was dark, smooth, and straight and framed her oval face perfectly. Her bright, golden eyes scanned her surroundings. She turned slowly revealing an animal print tattoo that trailed from the back of her neck, down her right shoulder, and her arm all the way to her pinky finger. I took half a step toward her before common sense drew me up short. I had been hiding for a reason. I had no idea whether she was friend or foe. It was dangerous to go charging out there, even if the girl seemed to be alone.

The stranger was facing me again. Her eyes landed near where I was hidden.

Could she see me?

She smirked and, said, “I know someone is out there. Save me the hunt and I’ll spare your life.”

Somehow I doubted she spoke the truth.

I hunkered down, daring her to find me. I was ready for her.

Slowly, carefully, she picked her way through the underbrush and made her way toward me. She knew I was here, but she didn’t know exactly where. Remembering how important it was that I not die, I couldn’t take any chances. As soon as she was close enough, I struck.

Just before my arm made contact, she shifted her weight and spun, stepping out of the way. She threw a punch, which I dodged easily, but then she continued to come at me and I blocked her over and over, until I made a misstep. While I was stumbling, she caught my cheek with her elbow then landed another blow to my belly. I countered, slamming my hand onto the bridge of her nose sending her backward. She stumbled but caught herself.

I launched myself at her, drove my body into hers, knocking her to the ground. We both fell in a tangle of limbs. She rolled, putting distance between us, and we both jumped back to our feet.

When she sprung forward again. I twisted, my back protesting the movement, just enough to get out of the way. We exchanged quite a few blows before she finally clocked me one good time in the face then followed that up with a kick in the ribs that stole my breath. I collapsed to the ground grabbing my side. Not wasting a second, I swept her with my foot, hooking my leg around hers, and yanking back with all my might. Her bright eyes widened as she went down, landing on her back. I jumped on top of her and pinned her to the ground. Now that I was up close I saw that there were two more tattoos on the left side of her neck: an arrow with two Xs in the middle, and another simple symbol next to it.

“Who are you?” I demanded.

No answer, though her eyes were wide with excitement—like she was enjoying this.

My heart thudded roughly against my chest. “How did you get here?”

Again, she didn’t answer.

Using her legs, she bucked up, throwing me onto my hands and knees. She kicked me down and sat on my back.

“What do you want?” I asked, face to the ground.

“Looking for you, Empress Sparks. I have to say I’m surprised to have found you so easily.”

 

 

And now time for the Giveaway Details:

By clicking the link below you could be in with a chance to win a $25 Amazon gift certificate, unfortunately only if you live in North America, but, for international readers, you could be in with the chance to get your hands on a digital copy of the 2nd book in the Beyond Earth series ‘Painted Skies‘.

GIVE ME FREE STUFF!

 

 

Thank you to the R&R for organising the tour.

Click the name below to learn more about what they do!

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R&R Book Tours

 

Have you grabbed your free copy of ‘Without Hesitation’ yet? Have you read any other great Sci-Fi stories recently? What would you like to see more of in Science Fiction today?

If you have a horror/dark fiction/sci-fi/thriller novel, short story, or collection you would like me to review, please get in contact!

 

‘The Sea Was a Fair Master’ by Calvin Demmer – Review

“For months, the nightmares of battling the sea would find him in the small hours. Fighting wave after wave, he struggled to keep afloa “For months, the nightmares of battling the sea would find him in the small hours. Fighting wave after wave, he struggled to keep afloat as the undertow pulled him away from the land. In the deep ocean, he’d surrender and beneath the water, he went.

 

His lungs would flood.

 

He wouldn’t die.”  Sea Ate Nine, ‘The Sea Was a Fair Master’ by Calvin Demmer t as the undertow pulled him away from the land. In the deep ocean, he’d surrender and beneath the water, he went.

His lungs would flood.

He wouldn’t die.”  Sea Ate Nine, ‘The Sea Was a Fair Master’ by Calvin Demmer

 

‘Connection. Disconnection. Loneliness. Love. Friendship. Murder. These are but a few of the elements of great horror, and Calvin Demmer expertly blends each one into his fiction – to a supremely devastating and unsettling effect.’ – Gwendolyn Kiste

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From the dark depths of the ocean to the love of an android’s heart, you can expect a lot from Calvin Demmer’s latest collection The Sea Was a Fair Master. Offering a generous collection of 23 dark fiction stories, all short but none of them sweet, you will definitely find a story in this book that resonates with you. Despite what the title might imply, there are only a few stories in the collection centered around the sea so if you aren’t into nautical terrors never fear – there’s plenty in this collection for everyone. The overarching theme of this collection, in my opinion, would have to be darkness. I feel like the sea as in the title of the collection captures this pretty well, but the stories in it also get at the darkness in humanity and explore the possibilities there in a chilling and honest way as well.

The Strengths

The strengths of The Sea Was a Fair Master, and Demmer’s writing in general, are his creative focal points and unique ideas. He comes at stories from an angle you aren’t expecting and this can make what would otherwise be considered mundane, a surprising and exciting twist. His stories open doors into the darkness inside us that we all like to ignore, and point out how easy it is to do just that, to believe that we could never be persuaded to commit crimes or harm ourselves. If you were looking for renewed faith in humanity, I think you picked up the wrong book. 

The stories that stood out for me were ‘The Snakes or The Humans’ with it’s chilling and yet lovely ending, and ‘Underneath’ with it’s complete and satisfying ending – I would have even liked to see this in a longer version that expanded more on the characters and motives.

 

What Was Missing

I have to say I did find some of the stories a little confusing. When it comes to very short fiction it can be hard to fit all the needed details in and a couple of stories just didn’t quite get it all in there for me. I was left wondering where the twist came from, re-reading to see if I missed something or if it was supposed to be that ambiguous.

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I would recommend this collection for anyone looking for fresh dark fiction, not just horror, but suspense, crime, sci-fi – it has it all. They are short reads so you can fit them in anywhere and still feel satisfied with the stories.

 

About the Author

Calvin Demmer is a dark fiction author from South Africa. When he’s not writing he’s studying the night and the sciences of the universe. You can find him online at calvindemmer.com and follow him on Twitter here.

Do you have any sea centered stories of horror? What is it about the dark depths of the ocean that sets our imaginations ablaze? Do we need more dark fiction that captures the endless unknown of the sea? Let me know down below.

If you have a horror/dark fiction/sci-fi/thriller novel, short story, or collection you would like me to review, please get in contact!

Genres – Why We Need Them and Why Elitism Harms Readers and Writers

 

So, a little story time first.

I studied English in university and during an exercise in one of the classes, we were asked to take a list of writers and place them within a circle. The more influential the writer was the closer to the center they would go, the least influential sticking to the outer rim. We were given a handful of writers from modern to ancient but the two I remember were J.R.R. Tolkien and Lord Byron. I argued in my group that J.R.R. Tolkien should be near the middle because his work has had such a huge influence on popular culture, even if you hate fantasy and you’ve never read Lord of The Rings, when you think of an elf or a wizard, you are thinking of his creations. The rest of my group agreed. Our lecturer however, did not. I was given a condescending sneer as she moved Tolkien‘s name to the furthest reaches of the circle and told that because he was a ‘genre writer’ and because Lord Byron was a ‘literary writer’ that obviously Lord Byron had more influence. I don’t know about you but I can’t name you a Byron poem, and I studied the guy. All I remember is that he had a club foot and he was there when Mary Shelley, another genre writer, wrote Frankenstein. I’m not saying he wasn’t influential and his work should be forgotten, but we have a habit of rehashing old stuff when we should be supporting writers and artists who are alive right now and actually need it.

That class was my first look into genre elitism, and as I did a double major and studied music, there was plenty more where that came from. But just like everything else in life, genres are not inherently bad, they do serve a purpose, it’s our fault for how we sometimes use them.

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What are genres good for?

We love to categorize everything because it helps us make sense of things in a complicated and messy world, and this is no less true when it comes to books. Genres are a way for us to simplify and find the things we need, they help publishers sell books to the people most likely to enjoy them, and they help readers find more of what they are most likely to enjoy – so in that sense having genres is a win win.

Have you ever been excited for a book or movie only to realise that it wasn’t what you thought it was going to be? Marketing can really be to blame for this. There are loads of movie trailers online where they’ve made kids movies look like horror, and thrillers look like teen coming of age stories – its all in how you present it.

Take this for example:

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In early 2000s Ellen Page stared in a two movies called ‘Ghost Cat‘ and ‘The Cat That Came Back‘. If you looked at these two posters they look like completely different movies, the left looking and sounding like a horror to me, and the right like a heart warming tale of love beyond the grave. The problem is, these are the same movie, and it even had a third name ‘Mrs. Ashboro’s Cat‘. WHY? Because once you stick a label on something you are shutting off the opportunity to use other labels. If you market as a horror, you get horror fans, if you market as a feel good movie, you get feel good fans, so why not cast your net wide and get both?

It’s absurd to think about now, but it’s the reason books have different covers in different countries, and why, when they realised men weren’t drinking Diet Coke because it was a ‘women’s drink’, they came up with Coke Zero, which is much more manly.

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Judge Judy wouldn’t stand for this nonsense.

Genre Snobbery

Genres can morph and merge, they can cross borders and reinvent themselves and we see this all the time in stand out books and movies. It all comes down to the formula and tropes that are used to tell the story. We all know them, and if we see certain tropes we get an idea of what we can expect from the story and we automatically label it a ‘western’ or a ‘crime novel’. But those same tropes, with just a little bit of tweaking can completely change how we think about the story. Take ‘women’s fiction’ for example, if you were to take a woman’s fiction book about family, divorce, realistic life struggles, and replace the female lead with a male lead, you suddenly get ‘literary fiction’, the golden boy (pun always intended) of genres. Sometimes books don’t fit the mold of a clearly defined genre, or the can easily slot onto the shelves of many.

Literary fiction is always given more respect than any other forms of writing. I can’t tell you how many writing groups I’ve been in where I was the only ‘genre writer’ and every time someone read a piece of mine they started with ‘I NEVER read stuff like this, so, I did’t really know what to make of it…‘ or ‘You guys are so clever coming with all this stuff! I really envy your imagination. I wish I could write like that‘. In short, it’s cute but there aren’t enough metaphors for sex or impotence. And if a literary fiction writer in one of those groups goes ‘a bit mad’ and decides to throw in something surreal, they are praised for picking elements or for transcending the genre, another sarcastic way of saying ‘you are better than them’.

The fact that its called genre fiction leads you to believe that literary fiction lies outside of genre altogether, that it is the basis for everything and therefore the most pure.

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Look at all those unnecessary commas…

And look, I’m not shitting on literary fiction, what I don’t like about genre elitism, is that we make people feel bad about what they like. We should be celebrating reading and writing, not shaming teens for ready YA, BOOKS WRITTEN FOR THEM I MIGHT ADD, or adults for reading Sci-Fi or Fantasy. Genres are a pointer, a helpful hand given us something to start with, but a great story is a great story.

Readers – Expand your reach, try new things and don’t have ‘guilty pleasures’, there’s nothing to feel guilty about.

Writers – Mix, melt, merge and smash together. Don’t let people tell you you can’t write X because you only write Y, or that no one respectable reads Z. Just make the story great.

 

What are you opinions on genre? Have you been duped before by a movie trailer or book blurb? Or do you think that ‘genre fiction’ really is sub par? Let me know down below.

 

Welcome to My Dark Corner

 

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Portrait commissioned from @Squeefox

So, I’ve started a blog. What now?

This blog will encompass everything I can’t do in my ever changing day job. I’m a writer myself and a voracious reader which doesn’t make me unique, certainly not in Ireland, but what I can do is bring a spotlight to the ‘dark corner’ of writing that I think is often over looked and is one of my passions – HORROR! But I won’t solely be focusing on horror, though I would like this to be a platform to promote new horror and my own stories,  this blog will also be a place where I can share my views on the Irish Writing scene: the book launches, the events, the venues, promoters and writers involved. And it will also document my journey as I work towards becoming a published writer (I’m working on it, really hard, believe me). Here, you can find book reviews, book launch reviews, literary events and competitions I take part in myself, and perhaps even a few short horror/thriller story that feel might fit the theme here. The sky is the limit!

I’m working on the next ‘hot take’ in writing, but in the mean time, if you have any topics you think I should cover or if you have a traditionally published, or indie horror/thriller/speculative/dark fiction – basically anything that isn’t all sunshine and roses, and you would like me to review it for you, please get in touch! I always need knew things to read!