‘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.

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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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‘Dark Divinations’ Anthology edited by Naching T. Kassa

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

***

 

Alexandria, Virginia, 1872

I did not know how long I had been unconscious, but when I opened my eyes, I saw… Nothing. Surrounded by a blackness darker than the Virginia woods on a cloudy night, I could feel the closeness of the space around me and smell the stale air. It took me a few moments to realize I was lying in a coffin. I groped the sides of the box, then pressed against the lid only inches from my face. (The Bell by Jon O’Bergh)

 

Synopsis –

It’s the height of Queen Victoria’s rule. Fog swirls in the gas-lit streets, while in the parlor, hands are linked. Pale and expectant faces gaze upon a woman, her eyes closed and shoulders slumped. The medium speaks, her tone hollow and inhuman. The seance has begun. Join us as we explore fourteen frightening tales of Victorian horror, each centered around a method of divination. Can the reading of tea leaves influence the future? Can dreams keep a soldier from death in the Crimea? Can a pocket watch foretell a deadly family curse? From entrail reading and fortune-telling machines to prophetic spiders and voodoo spells, sometimes the future is better left unknown. Choose your fate. Choose your DARK DIVINATION.

 

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Thoughts –

An anthology pried from the cold, dead, ghostly hands of the Victorian era, Dark Divinations leads the reader down a trail of blood chilling seances, ominous tea leaves, and curses that echo through the ages.

From a stellar list of writers including Jon O’Bergh, Hannah Hulbert, and the editor themselves Naching T. Kassa, this is an anthology chocked full of atmosphere, tension, and a building dread. From the blood curdling dreams of the doting wife Jennie in Ash Hartwell’s Copper and Cordite, to the ominous appearance of a fortune telling automaton bearing only grave news in Stephanie Ellis’s Romany Rose, Dark Divinations spans a century of Victorian characters and the perils that lie within attempting to see, or even change, ones own fate.

With a strength in tone and immersive atmosphere, this is a collection of story for the historically leaning, and for anyone who loves a good old bewitching tale of the unchangeable tapestry of destiny. There are methods for every enthusiast in this anthology, and you will not be disappointed by the variety.

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Grab your bustle, keep your pocket watch wound, and settle in for fourteen gothic tales of future telling. Recommended to be read by candlelight as a storm rages outside.

 

All the Authors –

Power and Shadow by Hannah Hulbert

Copper and Cordite by Ash Hartwell

Damnation in Venice by Joe L. Murr

The Pocket Watch by Emerian Rich

They Wound Like Worms by Naching T. Kassa

Miroir de Vaugnac by Michael Fassbender

The Bell by Jon O’Bergh

Romany Rose by Stephanie Ellis

Miss Mae’s Prayers by H.R.R. Gorman

Breaking Bad by R.L. Merrill

Broken Crystal by Rie Sheridan Rose

Ghost of St. John Lane by Daphne Strasert

The Moat House Cob by Alan Fisher

Of Blood and Bones by Jeremy Megargee

 

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‘Burnt Fur’ Anthology Edited by Ken MacGregor – Review

*This book has a trigger warning for torture and sexual violence*

***

 

‘Phaedra fucking hates ducks.

Once, her Secondary School biology teacher, Miss Esmer Powell, told her that ‘ducks are the most perfect sexual specimens’. Perfectly vile, Phaedra thought. It was about the one thing she’d disagreed on with Miss Powell. She was a wonderful teacher, if a little on the edge sometimes of what was appropriate for students aged nine to ten. She got away with it because she was as charismatic as she was authoritative. As pretty as she was tactful. And her knowledge of wildlife, flora and fauna, species of animal, was frankly mind-blowing. Phaedra had been amazed to discover she didn’t have a PhD. It was part of the reason Phaedra was on a mission to get one herself.’ (‘Mallard’s Maze’ by Joseph Sale)

 

Synopsis –

There are no good boys in in this anthology, only twisted, deviant, and burnt encounters with pets, people in costume, animals who behave like humans, and creatures who blur the line between the three. Violent pigs, killer ducks, horny bees, a naughty rabbit, and many more fill these pages with tale after tail of hair-raising horror.

Don your Fursuit, slip into your Fursona, and ride the dark wave of horror that is Burnt Fur. You may never go back to wearing your normal skin again.

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Thoughts –

Burnt Fur is an anthology for the animal in you. Rife with sexual exploits, gorey violence, and questionable characters. Burnt Fur takes you on a journey through the worst of humanities fantasies, vengeance spurred on by supernatural forces, men with pig faces, opossums who want men’s faces, beasts that masquerade as humans, and humans that masquerade as beasts.

Taking the horror we feel for beasts that we don’t understand or can’t control and blending it perfectly with the horror we feel for the beasts we are ourselves, this anthology crawls under your skin and stays there. Starting off on one of the more somber and non-erotic stories, ‘The Moon in Her Eyes‘ by Sarah Hans eases you in with an unusual take on a usual trope. Next up is ‘Mallard’s Maze‘ by Joseph Sale brings the first toe dip into the horrors of beastiality, and more importantly, how terrifying ducks are.

From there the series escalates in theme and tests just how strong the readers stomach is, but I never found the violence or erotic scenes gratuitous. The writing of each story has its own voice and there isn’t a story in this collection that felt phoned in – the writing is impeccable. There is violence though it serves the story, sexual deviancies though they aren’t excuses for cheap thrills, there are chilling and thrilling stories and every one of them with characters both sympathetic, utterly disgusting, and deranged. Read at your own discretion.

 

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Whatever you’re into, this anthology will certainly get under your skin… or fur.

 

About the Editor –

Ken MacGregor’s short stories have appeared in dozens of anthologies, magazines and podcasts. One of his stories was nominated for the Micro Award. Ken is a member in good standing of The Great Lakes Association of Horror Writers and an Affiliate member of HWA. He lives in Michigan with his family.He can be found on Facebook (Ken MacGregor – Author), Amazon and at ken-macgregor.com.

 

Contributing Authors –

Sarah Hans (The Moon in Her Eyes)

Joseph Sale (Mallard’s Maze)

Theodore Deadrat (Salivation)

N. Rose (The Hamford Pigs)

Paul Allih (The Willingness of Prey)

Rachel Lee Weist (6 Dicks)

C.M. Saunders (The Others)

Elliot Arthur Cross (Randall Rabbit)

Rue K. Poe (A Concubine for the Hive)

Thurston Howl (Five Nights With Teddy)

Matt Scott (Oh Piggy, My Piggy)

Stephanie Park (Ware the Deep)

Michelle F. Goddard (Molt of a Diminishing Light)

James L. Steele (The Victims)

 

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‘Black Bubbles’ by Kelli Owen – Review

*Disclaimer – I was given this book for free in exchange for an honest review*

***

In the waning light of day, shadows, invaded the cemetery. A large pine, several rows over, cast its mark along the ground and reached for her. The shapes of nearby statues bled across the grass, distorting as they stretched. Taller markers grew longer still as their inky mirror images oozed past the plot lines. And inside the bag, the shadows swallowed all but the tiniest bit of light. That light glinted from its contents, rejecting the darkness around it.

Lucy sighed a held breath, reached into the bag, and pulled her hand back out with memories. And secrets. (‘The Tin Box)

 

Synopsis –

Horror is pessimism at its bleakest. Worst-case scenario. The darker side of reality. The glass half-empty. The situation unfathomable. In Black Bubbles, Kelli Owen presents classic genre tropes—ghosts, murderers, zombies, what you’d expect (sans sharks)—but it’s the characters, rather than the tropes, that experience the story, speak of the horrors, and sometimes survive the inevitable.

Sometimes.

An decades-old crime shocks a family as evidence points to one of their own… An ancient evil hitchhikes its way to freedom… A child has an unusual fascination with decay… A woman excuses premeditation… Death takes a holiday… Science and good intentions make horrific bedfellows… A man hides from nightmares that invade his waking world…

 

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Thoughts –

Black Bubbles by Kellie Owen covers a vast array of characters and a wide spectrum of horrific ideas. Her straight forward prose lays out each story with clarity and allows the reader to become fully enveloped in the actions and events the characters struggle through; no flowery language or hyperbole needed to state the terrors that lie within these stories.

Each tale is accompanied by a short paragraph of notes explaining where the concept came from which is fascinating for both readers and writers alike. For instance ‘The Tin Box’ which was birthed from the glimpse of a small trinket in an elderly relatives belongings that grows into a full blown story of dark secrets and violent ends, these notes give an extra layer to the collection that I certainly appreciated.

The titular story that rounds off this collection, as stated by the opening introduction from Thomas F. Monteleone, is indeed unique and unsettling. An idea I haven’t heard the likes of before and that you can glimpse a hint of on the cover for this edition though that hint does nothing to prepare you for the frightening end that this collection has.

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Black Bubbles is a rich and intriguing collection that takes the usual tropes and looks at them from a new angle, a new perspective and with the trustworthy voice of Owen.

 

About the Author –

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“The author of more than a dozen books—my fiction spans the genres from thriller and psychological horror, to an occasional bloodbath, and the even rarer happy ending.

I was an editor and reviewer for over a decade, and have attended countless writing conventions, participated on dozens of panels, and spoken at the CIA Headquarters in Langley, VA regarding both my writing and the field in general.”

Born and raised in Wisconsin, she now lives in Destination, Pennsylvania.

For more information you can visit her website at kelliowen.com

 

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‘Double Barrel Horror Vol. 3’ Edited by Matthew Weber – Review

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

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“Someone would always be ‘keeping an eye on you,’ and I suppose it was meant to be reassuring but it always struck me as a threat.” (Eye See You by Christine Morgan)

 

Synopsis –

Brace yourself for another two-barrel blast of unrelenting horror and suspense. Volume 3 of the ‘Double Barrel Horror’ anthology series delivers two chilling tales from each of six talented authors for a 12-story onslaught that will blow you out of your sneakers.

 

“These images filled Scottie’s mind, tattoed there by the baritone drawl of the man sitting behind him. It must have been two hours of video, but felt like two minutes. When it was over, the man sitting behind Scottie – the narrator made flesh – stood before the coffin. He ejected the video and pushed another into the VCR.” (Fuel for the King of Death by Robert Essig)

 

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“She smiled deep into him, gazing into his insides until she could read his secret thoughts. He needed to pull away but couldn’t.” (Wicked Smart Carnie by Mark Matthews)

 

Thoughts –

Brought to you by six adept horror writers, Double Barrel Volume 3 has the reader enthralled by prose, captivated by the visceral horror described, and yet still hopeful for the unlucky characters behind the words.

From the otherworldly revenge of ‘The House on Mayflower Street‘ by Glenn Rolfe to the run of the mill ravenous ethereal monsters of ‘Highway Hunger‘ by Calvin Demmer, this collection spans a wide range of concepts and horrifying events, yet each author manages to capture the essence of their characters, the anchor to any story. Not without a hint of humour you also have ‘From Unclean Spells‘ by Robert Essig which turns childhood giggles into mortal fear. Or if you are looking for a story that makes you thoroughly nauseous, uncomfortable yet unable to look away, might I suggest ‘Wicked Smart Carnie‘ by Mark Matthews – a story that will be lodged in my brain for years to come I fear. The reader is also treated to the folkloric horror of ‘Homecoming‘ by Theresa Braun and ancient terror from ‘Sharp Obsidian‘ by Christine Morgan.

Double Barrel Horror Volume 3 is a collection for the strong stomached, the empathetic, and any horror fans looking for a story to keep them up at night.

 

“Her distorted legs restrain me with superhuman strength, while I try to conjure a desperate notion to roll away or break free. But that time never comes.” (Homecoming by Theresa Braun)

 

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“Dudley, transfixed, couldn’t move. He couldn’t even turn to face his coworker, as his head felt stuck in place. The guilt ate at him, severing his ability to move. He needed to escape the feeling’s claim for control. He wasn’t the driver, but even if he had been, there as nothing that could’ve altered the accident. It had gone down too fast.” (Highway Hunger by Calvin Demmer)

 

This collection will leave your insides cold, make your skin crawl, and give a new weight to those shadows in the corner of your bedroom.

 

“Davis stood on his good foot, tasting the blood from his lip mashing against the wall. 

‘This isn’t fucking funny. Who’s up there?'” (The House on Mayflower Street by Glenn Rolfe)

 

About the Editor –

Edited by Mark Weber who can be found on Goodreads.

 

Contributing Authors –

Christine Morgan (Eye See You, Sharp Obsidian)

Robert Essig (From Unclean Spells, Fuel for the King of Death)

Mark Matthews (Wicked Smart Carnie, Goodwin)

Theresa Braun (Stillborn, Homecoming)

Calvin Demmer (Highway Hunger, Motel Madness)

Glenn Rolfe (The Guide, The House on Mayflower Street)

 

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