‘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!

‘Periphery: A Tale of Cosmic Horror’ by Michael Winter – Review

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

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“What?” Andrew was teetering over a precipice he had been approaching for twenty years, ever since the day his father had returned from the police station still caked inn dried blood and announced to his wife and son that he was moving out, that it was the only way to ensure their safety, although they had nothing to fear from him. All the scary stuff was out there, out in the light. Out in the open. It always had been. 

“That’s what your old man calls them. Quintalochs.”

Andrew wanted to look away, but a feeling of inevitability had taken hold. In his mind, things were clicking and snapping, falling into a terrible alignment nothing could stop. The palm frond held his gaze. There was something unnerving about its size, about the way each long blade bent, then bent again, tapering to a barbed point. They jutted from the central stem like angled spokes that thickened every time he blinked. There were well over a dozen veins, running in twos all the way to the ground before curving toward the bin. 

Andrew saw with a start that the frond wasn’t connected to the tree at all. It was simply propped against the fence. What had made him think otherwise? And what about those discolorations on the pavement? O dd the way they continued up the side of the trash bin, as if the two marks were actually part of the same thing, a sweeping curve of antenna for instance.   

 

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Synopsis –

John Tate has always been at the periphery of his son’s life, but he’s had good reason for it. Now however, as Andrew is drawn into a hostage situation by a man claiming his father filled his head with monster, Andrew starts to see shadows on the edge of his vision, creatures that surely can’t be real, but they are. Andrew’s life, already cracking, is starting to crumble away as the city of Tampa rages with fire and voices in the minds of it’s residents but only a handful know the truth – an alien race that humans have evolved not to be aware of, is on their way to annihilate them all. Now, despite his efforts, John cannot hide the truth from his son anymore and both must embark on the final journey to try and save their people.

 

Thoughts –

In Periphery, Michael Winters tell a horrifying tale of cosmic creatures that live amongst us, beside us, and at the edges of our vision, our own ability to be blissfully unaware of them being the only defence we have against them. Led by rich and engaging characters struggling with their own inner turmoil and now bombarded by the telepathic terrorists hell-bent on invading their community and minds, Periphery is a modern cosmic horror with a classic feel to it.

Following Andrew on his discovery that his absent father’s rantings about shadowy creatures was nothing but the truth and the eventual merging of the community to fight a singular threat that can no longer be ignored, this story will leave you wondering at the shadows in your peripherals, at the flicker of movement in the corner of your vision. Where is your eye drawn? Will you follow the urge to look and know, or is ignorance more than bliss, but mortal safety?

 

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Periphery is a novel that pulls the reader in through believable characters, unsettling possibilities, and the hope that can be found in community. With strong, skillful writing, and a common enemy to fight, Winter spins a tale of darkness that will leave you cautious of every shadow.

 

About the Author –

Michael Winter is a 2015 graduate of the University of South Florida’s MFA program, with a degree in creative writing. He worked for “The Tampa Tribune” for twenty-eight years as a copy editor, page designer, feature writer and columnist.

His short fiction has appeared in the “Fiction Quarterly section” of “The Tampa Tribune”, “Modern Short Stories”, “The Tampa Review”, “Other Voices”, “Fourteen Hills”, and “Natural Bridge”. His non-fiction has been published in the “Private Lives” section of “The St. Petersburg Times”, “The Tampa Tribune” and 2 Bridges Review.

He lives in Florida with his wife, daughter and assorted creatures of the canine and feline variety.

 

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What’s your favourite cosmic/sci-fi horror? Do you prefer them to be set on earth on in space? 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.*

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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 – 

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