‘Howls from the Dark Ages: A Medieval Horror Anthology – Review

*Disclaimer – I received free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review*

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There’s something delicious about medieval images of Hell too, isn’t there? None of this existential Hell is other people hooey. When you come to medieval Hell, you’re in for torture, devils, fire, and seas of the damned that are nauseating in their scope. Medieval Catholicism didn’t fuck around. It was in a fight to the death, not only with Islam, secularism, and much older indigenous religions; it was amputating and burning mutations in the DNA of its own teachings. You would not only go to Hell for murder; you’d go for heresy. You’d go for believing Christ was only spirit and never had a body. You’d go for not believing the bread you at at Mass was Christ’s body.

So Hell had to be really good at being really bad.

It had to be worse than the short, overworked, oppressed, shame-filled, opiate free life of war, famine and plague its underfed population lived from day to day and season to season.

And you know what?

It almost was.

Come and see, come and see.

– Foreword extract by Christopher Buehlman

Synopsis –

HOWL Society Press presents Howls From the Dark Ages, a horror anthology with 18 thrilling tales of medieval macabre and a foreword by Christopher Buehlman, author of Between Two Fires.

Thoughts –

With a range of ideas, cultures, and curiosities, Howls from the Dark Ages takes the reader back through time and puts the real DARK in dark ages. Accompanying each story is an equally curious and intriguing illustration of an object from that story, tying the whole anthology together as a fanciful tour through an ominous museum.

Ranging from the expected medieval age of England where monks find themselves confined to monasteries where devils disguise themselves as angels and forbidden loves are struck down by mysterious glowing mushrooms, to Irish mercenaries accepting a well earned drink at a feast that may lead to even more bloodshed, and an arranged marriage haunted by the ghost of a jilted lover. Each story is more dark and mysterious than the last and there is something for every horror reader, whether you enjoy ghosts, monsters, or just plain murder.

It was also refreshing to see great queer representation in this collection, as well as having a look at the medieval time period in different countries and cultures around the world.

Howls from the Dark Ages is an entertaining and frightening read, and the inclusion of the museum tour guide and the dark illustrations ties everything together beautifully.

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‘Diaries of the Damned’ by Ivan Radev – Review

*Disclaimer – I received free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review*

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Foreword (Extract)

This is a book of fears. Manifesting themselves as malicious monsters, my mind’s maladies formed crooked, misshapen phrases. Thus, they merged with reality. This release fully intends to give nightmares, shed tears, carve gentle scars into the soul of the reader. It is evil.

“Diaries of the Damned” is a work of fiction, but the feelings it expresses and evokes are all too real. There’s rampaging existential dread, psychological pain, loneliness, angst, and absolute, abominable horror. It is a hand that grips at the neck with no remorse, no compassion, nothing but the desire to blacken everything it touches.

However, I wish it also brings hope. After all, only light can cast shadows. The splendor of the stars, the magnificence of the mountains, the vastness of the universe are all beautiful things that make our existence seem small and meaningless. We are all too human: our lives are short, and death is the great validation that we ever lived.

Synopsis –

This anthology is not for the faint of heart and easily disturbed. All eleven narrators suffer from mental affliction, excruciating existential dread, or terminal despair. This book is evil. It is absolutely capable of inducing nightmares and scarring the mind. The characters within are ruthlessly relatable; they are normal people who drew the short straw. They got sick or old or just lost it all.

Beware the Damned! They are trapped inside wailing, waiting for a willing victim, a witness to their tales and tears.

Thoughts –

Diaries of the Damned from Ivan Radev is a collection of eleven stories told in some form by a narrator. Whether through diary style entries, interview transcripts, or online blog posts, the stories in this collection are all linked by one common thread – each narrator has an overwhelming and universal fear that is exposed through the telling of their story. This was a five star collection for me because not a single one of these stories was a miss, every single one was a hit. From the slow building tension and Lovecraftian horror of ‘The Transcript of Timothy Parker’s Interrogation, Deep Dive (Unsaved)’, to the dark and modern humour of ‘The Incident At the Toilet Paper Aisle’, Radev shows his considerable scope with pacing, language, voice, and strong and relatable characters.

Among some of the themes and fears explored in this collection are the fear of loneliness, of losing the person that you love the most, as well as the inevitability of time marching inexorably forward, and death itself. On the other hand, there are some narrators that embody the thing that is to be feared. Each story is told from a first person perspective in some way, thus the ‘diaries’ theme, but this never felt repetitive or overplayed, he did well in bringing variety into the collection.

I thoroughly enjoyed this collection and will definitely be perusing these stories again at some point.

About the Author –

Ivan Radev is a literary horror writer with an obsession for the arts, the absurd, the existential, the eclectic. His stories range from the naively romantic to the dreadfully deranged. One can find equal measures psychological pain and philosophical peace in his content. His writing might appeal to readers of Albert Camus, Edgar Allan Poe, and Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.

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‘Corpsing’ by Kayleigh Marie Edwards – Review

*Disclaimer – I received free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review*

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Brian crinkled his nose in disgust of the information he now regretted receiving, and quickly checked the labels on the boxes. He squinted, realising he’d left his glasses in his car, but they both seemed to spell the same thing. He grabbed a vial and a syringe and fled from the infirmary before he heard something else he didn’t want to.

By the time he got back to the ward all hell had broken loose. A chorus of howls was reaching fever pitch in a battle against an opposing symphony of terrified screams. Rice was peering out of his window, silent and appearing to enjoy the madness he’d created. Brian ran into Bachman’s room, fiddling with the syringe wrapper as he went.

Janet was trying to force Bachman down onto his bed. Brian handed the sedative and syringe to her and took over. He managed, though with difficulty, to overpower the little old guy and get him lying down.

  • ‘Bitey Bachman’

Synopsis –

Kayleigh Marie Edwards has been entertaining and chilling audiences with her own eclectic mix of horror and comedy. Now, for the first time, this popular author has collected her works together, reviewing and revising each one to bring you the definitive versions of her unique tales.

From murderous children to nightmarish trips to an ill-fated zombie apocalypse, Corpsing will send you running for the light switch, but smiling as you do it.

Featuring the stories: Bitey Bachman, Bits and Bobs, Siren, Now You See Them, Skin, ‘S’ Day, Barry’s Last Day & ’Twas The Night Before Christmas.

Thoughts –

Exploring themes of adolescence, monsters, and humour, Kayleigh Marie Edwards new collection, Corpsing is a set of eight dark tales that will keep you hooked to the last page.

While no story in this collection could be seen as a ‘miss’, my favourites would include the story ‘Skin’ which tells the tale of a young girl’s painful loss of innocence through a seemingly innocuous spider bite and a knuckle head boyfriend. Another gem had the air of a Douglas Adams piece – ‘S Day’ tells the story of a global and unique pestilence wrought on the world by an annoying child. Aptly sticking to the title of the collection, each of these stories has a combination of dark terror and humorous antics woven into them, accompanied by compelling characters and writing that flows from Edwards fingers like an inky river.

Corpsing is a horror collection that lets a crack of light into the darkness of it’s pages, and marks Kayleigh Marie Edwards as a dark fiction writer to watch in the future.

You’ll laugh, you might cry, but you will keep turning those pages.

About the Author –

Kayleigh Marie Edwards is a writer of fiction, reviews, articles, and theatre plays. Finding that horror and comedy tend to go hand-in-hand, she exclusively writes in these genres, and enjoys combining them. She believes that there’s no problem in life that can’t be solved with a good laugh, or a good scare.

She can be found listing horror movie facts at spookyisles.com, and has a page called ‘Challenge Kayleigh’ at gingernutsofhorror.com, in which horror fans challenge her to positively review the very ‘worst’ movies that the genre has to offer. She lives alone in her house of horrors with her cat. She she’s fine with it.

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‘Gothic Blue Book VI: A Krampus Carol’ edited by Cynthia Pelayo – Review

*Disclaimer – I received free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review*

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If her mom were here, Anna would suck it up and spin the flax and scrub the toilets and help with the cooking. Her mom made it fun, but her dad just went through the motions. Surely, he didn’t believe in a crazy witch that lurked around on Epiphany cutting out people’s guts and replacing them with trash. The story always seemed ridiculous, even when Anna was little. It never scared her. It just annoyed her that a witch would do all of that as punishment for not cleaning and cooking and spinning fabric.

Talk about overkill.

Anna rolled on her side and let herself sink inter her mattress. Tomorrow, her home would fill with relatives. She knew the amount of chaos the Epiphany feast caused. A tiny seed of an idea sprouted in her mind. She rolled it over and gave it room to grow. A smile spread on her face as it fully developed.

This would be her last Epiphany.

– ‘The Night of Epiphany’ by Nico Bell.

Synopsis –

A collection of short horror stories and poems resurrect the spirit of the Gothic Blue Book. Gothic Blue Books were short Gothic fictions popular in the 18th and 19th century.

Burial Day Books presents its sixth Gothic Blue Book, A Krampus Carol. A Krampus Carol is a celebration of folklore and myth around Christmas, Yule, the cold winter months and Santa Claus’ opposite, Krampus.

Thoughts –

Capturing the atmosphere and the traditional feeling of the story of Krampus, a northern European myth and legend, is no easy feat and yet A Krampus Carol manages it time and time again. With over thirty dark tales of yuletide horror, many featuring the horned demon directly, and a contributors list of many diverse and accomplished authors, this is one collection that will become a staple of my end of year readings.

Throughout this collection there is an emphasis on traditional folklore, on cold winter nights, and on the monsters that can stalk them when the veil is just thin enough. In the story ‘The Night of Epiphany’ by Nico Bell readers are treated to a YA story of grief and family traditions, where deviating from her late mother’s usual Christmas plans could stand to be deadly. ‘Candy Cane’ by Jeff Carter is a short, sharp, and more abstract tale of the dangers of bullying. Or, if you prefer to can delve into a more more modern take on the idea of the naughty list with Austrian Spencer’s story ‘Krampus’ which is a bleak and yet comical story of an app out of control.

This was certainly a collection that extended the Christmas atmosphere for me at the end of December, and one that I am sure will give readers a dark and cosy reading experience into the new year as well.

A Krampus Carol is a stellar collection of yuletide horror sure to give any horror fans chills that have little to do with the winter season.

About the Editor –

Cynthia “Cina” Pelayo is the author of LOTERIA, SANTA MUERTE, THE MISSING, and POEMS OF MY NIGHT, all of which have been nominated for International Latino Book Awards. POEMS OF MY NIGHT was also nominated for an Elgin Award. Her recent collection of poetry, INTO THE FOREST AND ALL THE WAY THROUGH explores true crime, that of the epidemic of missing and murdered women in the United States. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism, a Master of Science in Marketing, a Master of Fine Arts in Writing, and is a Doctoral Candidate in Business Psychology. Cina was raised in inner city Chicago, where she lives with her husband and children. Find her online at www.cinapelayo.com and on Twitter @cinapelayo.

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‘Screaming Creatures’ by Sean M. Thompson – Review

*Disclaimer – I received free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review*

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You put the key in, and the lock catches a bit. You’d forgotten about this quirk with the door, but there are many little things to get used to as a house sitter. You have to use a good amount of force to fully engage the mechanism, but you manage it, even one-handed, with the Jensen’s mail balanced against your side.

The heat is the first thing to hit you: stifling, cloying humidity, which seeps right into your lungs. The smells of potpourri left in the blazing sun, of no doubt thirsty begonias in a crystal vase, mix with the smell of the chemically-treated water in the fish tank. You’re surprised the mauve wallpaper hasn’t just peeled off the wall like a snake’s skin.

Maggie Jensen hired you primarily to feed her fish while she takes some much needed R and R at Acadia National park in the good old state of Maine, where life is slower. Being from Rhode Island this has a certain appeal. And who knows, maybe you’ll take some time off in September to go yourself.

Sunny Village

Synopsis –

Enter a world where nowhere is safe. These 14 stories take our everyday lives and turn them upside down. Encounter wendigos and succubi, demons and beings from beyond the stars, travel from the forests of New England to the wasted plains of the old west, succumb to haunted media and plagues of madness. Screaming Creatures is a fast ride to surreal landscapes full of hard decisions and frayed sanity.

Thoughts –

Screaming Creatures is the latest collection from Sean M. Thompson and Nictitating Books. From unsettling naked strangers in ‘Sunny Village’ to a world lost to insanity in the titular story ‘Screaming Creatures’, Thompson takes you on a journey through creeps, chills, horrors, and unbelievable terror.

Thompson’s writing is swift and engaging, a style that you can trust to keep you locked in with characters and events at all times. The tones of the stories are wide ranging but always with an undercurrent of tension that is enough to turn your stomach. The thrill of a secretarial job for a blood thirsty employer, the cold yearning for a connection with strangers – you’ll find a story that hits a nerve.

The final story of the collection ‘Screaming Creatures’ is a tale of a world infected by madness, and one that reflects all too much our current situation. Seemingly a virus with unknown origins infects the world, though they never find out how it is spread, but instead of physical sickness here it is insanity, irrationality, and violence that push our world over the edge, turning us all into nothing but screaming creatures… or maybe we already are.

A powerfully written collection to dive into, Screaming Creatures is sure to echo in the mind long after the last page.

About the Author –

Thompson grew up in a suburb of central Massachusetts. He is, in no particular order:
A weirdo. An angry ghost. A redhead. An asshat. A soda-swilling, sarcastic son of a bitch who loves cats and gallows humor.

He is a transplant to Santa Fe, New Mexico, where he’s doing his best to become a desert-dwelling surrealist

Sean M. Thompson is the author of the collection TOO LATE, TH3 D3M0N, the novella HATE FROM THE SKY from Eraserhead Press, and FARMINGTON CORRECTIONAL from Planet X Publications. His work has been featured in TEST PATTERNS, TERROR IN 16-BITS, VASTARIEN, and UNNERVING.

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