‘Maybe the Dream Knows What is Real’ by Steve Grogan – Review

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

****

From the beginning of my life, I knew what purpose I would serve. Clarity hit me the second my father’s sperm pierced the shell of my mother’s egg. Yes, that is how immediate and obvious the truth was. 

Mother gave herself to him that night completely. She wanted his hands, his mouth, his entire body to fuse with her so they could become one. As I got older, I was raised to believe that a woman offering herself in this was to a man was a special occasion, but over time I discovered none of my peers held the same belief. They had hollow caves where their hearts should be. Since they had no problem sharing this treasure with whoever happened to be around. Some would use excused for this promiscuity (like constant horniness, alcohol, or drugs), but I was not blind to the truth. Mine was a generation of misfits incapable of loving themselves, more prone to loneliness and alienation than even the Beats. 

I was unique among my peers because I understood love. Ironically, this meant I was lonely as hell because in their minds I was this weirdo who wanted a serious commitment instead of just empty sex. Over time I came to embrace my individuality/ I wore it like a badge of pride. My problem proved to be its own solution. 

But I’m getting ahead of myself. 

As I was saying, the purpose of my life became clear to me very early on. One might be inclined to thin I am exaggerating, but this realization came to me while I was still hovering in the womb. I was meant to fulfill one role: the underdog, the loser, the one who has bad luck or no luck at all. 

This was the trajectory my life was supposed to follow. Someone or something had already chosen it for me. Into the fluid of the life-giving sac I screamed inquiries and profanities of all sorts, lashing out with my feet when the lack of answers frustrated me. 

Months passed. My development was the same as any other embryo. They physical traits, however, were where my similarities to others ended. I had already gained a realization that I would be different. There would be no one quite like me. 

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Synopsis (from Goodreads) –

He was lost, directionless, unable to find his identity.

He thought he found it in her, which was good because he was teetering on the edge of madness.

She had no way of knowing her actions would push him over the edge.

This is a story about the dangers of depending on others to give you a sense of self-worth, taken to the extreme. It is a graphic, dark story not meant for the faint of heart. The graphic content makes up only 15% of the prose, but it is some of the most harrowing writing ever committed to page.

 

Thoughts –

Maybe the Dream Knows What is Real is the fantasy of an ‘incel’, and I didn’t enjoy it. It certainly is horrifying the way that some people think, especially men who hate women as much as the main character in this book did, but there needs to be more than a glamorized description of their fantasies from their perspective – men hating women for the fact that they are women isn’t interesting, it’s depressing.

As you can see from the quote above, the book begins by the protagonist describing that he understood society and relationships while he was still in the womb and that can basically describe his entire personality. He constantly monologues about how people treat him so terribly because he’s actually so interesting and intelligent, and how women hate him but yet he has multiple girlfriends who he has loads of sex with and breaks up with amicably – there’s inconsistencies here with his account and obviously he’s an unreliable narrator but he’s much too unreliable for the story to work. And nothing comes along to test this guy, no characters try and hold a mirror up to his character, there’s no actual conflict for him that I read until the bizarre final scenes which should never have happened and to be honest I skipped over most of the gore as I could tell where it was going – rape and torture of a woman who did nothing wrong.

The story ends with a scenario that makes no sense – his girlfriend breaks up with him only to invite him to small gathering where she gets with another guy? Why would she do this? To further the plot of course and lead him on a graphic rape and murder spree, why else.

This isn’t a pleasant story to read, and I know it was never meant to be, but when I read a story I want there to be some character or scene or something to cling on to so that I can still believe humanity is not a complete dumpster fire – I didn’t get anything like that from this book. Hearing from a misogynistic murderer why they hate women and want to kill them isn’t interesting especially as the reason is ‘because they’re women’. Killers are only interesting for the stories of the people trying to fight them off, to get away from them – essentially for the humanity and fight for survival that they bring out in others.

Maybe the Dream Knows What is Real is a short and uncomfortable read that holds a niche audience.

 

About the Author (from Goodreads) –

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Steve Grogan has published several collections of poetry and short stories. This is his first story of extended length to be published.

 

Links to Buy and Review –

Amazon.co.uk

Amazon.com

Goodreads.com

 

 

How do you feel about horror stories from the killers perspective? Does there need to be some accountability in their stories? Does exorbitant violence turn you away from a book?

‘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?

‘Various States of Decay’ by Matt Hayward – Review

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

****

A businessman outside the house at two in the morning made sense in the city, but William lived in the country,  and that made the passerby ever so curious. William parted the curtains slowly, just enough to avoid attention, and breathed through his nose to lessen the condensation on the window. As the man passed the streetlamp, a purple tinge highlighted his suit, and his gait was that of an elderly man with the skin to match. Like a raisin wearing a dollar store three-piece once owned by a pimp. 

The gentleman paused at the mailbox, and William held his breath, letting the blinds fall to a slit. And yet, the businessman (if he could be called such – William imagined that cheap looking briefcase contained blank A4s and half-eaten apple cores opposed to actual documents and contracts) paused and stared at the house. 

William cocked his head, frozen. If the man approached his home, should he rush out and meet him halfway, just in case? But just in case what? The odd timing and strange location surely weren’t enough to justify thoughts of danger, were they? Besides, the man looked old enough to fall asleep standing up, never mind getting a punch to the face. Oh, and that face, like a peanut dropped and covered in fluff from the underbelly of a couch. Still, the gentleman stared at William’s home, and as he did, his shriveled lips curled into a grin. 

Gooseflesh crawled along William’s arms.

[…]

William plucked the letter and worked his nail along the seal, greeted by the subtle scent of perfume. He made his way back to the living room and fell onto the couch, throwing away the envelope as he shook out the paper. 

Dearest William. I’d like to talk to you about our Lord and Savior – Philip. Seven AM, today. I’ll see you shortly, and I should hope for decaf. 

Various States eBook cover

Synopsis –

A collection of no less than twenty stories, including the Irish Short Story of the Year-nominated ‘Intercepting Aisle Nine’, Various States of Decay moves steps comfortably from stories of advertisements invading our dreams, Irish folklore in a modern setting, killer furniture, and the horrors of an early morning Dart journey. Dealing with themes of grief, shame, loss of reality and the overwhelming fear of not being believed, this is a collection that any reader can find themselves in.

 

Thoughts –
First of all, can’t stop staring at that cover design, the colours, the subtle details, and the fact that the upside down bleeding reality of it fits the collection it contains so well. Also, I just fucking love trees.

Stories
There are a few stories in particular that stood out in this collection for me for a variety of reasons. One story that gave me a bit of a Hellboy vibe was Rodent in the Red Room, a story that brings some Irish folklore to a modern world and one I personally hadn’t heard of before but was thoroughly unsettling in it’s insidious nature. Another was titled Knock, Knock simply for the bizarre absurdity of it – a businessman shows up at your countryside home at 2am to preach the word of… Philip? Already terrifying.

The stories in this collection are not repetitive but there are similarities in theme and tone, much needed and often overlooked when putting a collection together. There’s also a few that seem to be linked by a single corporate giant that isn’t exactly ethical. But each story stands on its own, complete and satisfying, and most of all memorable.

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Writing
In the foreword written by Kelli Owen she states that Hayward’s strengths lie in his settings and I would have to agree with that. You never dip your toe in a Hayward story, you plunge flat footed into the deep waters of whatever world he wants you to be in. From dystopian futures to only slightly left-field modern day Ireland, you are right there with the characters and the reality that they can see melting right in front of their eyes.

But Hayward is far from a one-trick pony and though his settings are enthralling, his characters are the anchors that really hold you in the story. Gritty, emotional, and flawed, the protagonists of Hayward’s stories are too real not to be believed. Tired, worried, confused, and in various states of pain as we all are, you get locked into their journeys with them unable to change the trajectory but also unable to look away from the drop there are about to barrel over. All you can do is thank the gods that it isn’t you.

Various States of Decay is a generously thick volume of stories that explore the nature of fear and what it’s like to have your reality turned absolutely upside down. With universal themes of loss, confusion, and the naïve belief that reality is fixed and immutable, Hayward’s writing brings the reader down inexorable paths to devastating ends. For such a long collection I can’t say that there was a miss in the lot, and I’d highly recommend picking up a copy of this today.

 

About the Author –

Matt Hayward

 

Matt Hayward is a Bram Stoker Award-nominated horror author and musician from Ireland. You can find Hayward on Twitter at @MattHaywardIRE and can find his books online at the usual places, I would recommend giving him a go.

 

Links to Buy and Review –

Amazon.co.uk

Amazon.com

Goodreads.com

 

What’s your favourite short story collection? What’s more important to you as a reader enthralling setting or relatable characters?

‘Brothers of Blood’ by Tristan Drue Rogers – Review

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

****

“Belle!” hollered Beau within the darkly lit hallway leading into the living room. “Belle” What the hell… where you at?” He stumbled against the wall as his hands were wet and his eyes held no contact lenses, nor glasses atop his nose. 

The television screen glared a spasmodic juxtaposition of non-complementary colors onto the young child. Beau glared his own shade of hazel her way. “Didn’t you hear me? Did you hear anything?” 

She laughed, not at her big brother, but at the cartoon pie character’s actions that she loved so. Beau engulfed a deep breath while walking with deliberate silence near the sofa, where Belle had set up camp. As he set himself near her frame, she became uneasy. He reached his not so steady hand outward toward the remote controller. She noticed a dry redness on a fingertip or two, the residue sinking into the controller’s glob-like buttons as he unexpectedly raised the volume to cover up his speech. “Listen up, kid. We gotta talk.” Beau’s grinding of his jaw was a machine wrought with the law of the world.

“Okay,” said Belle.

“Now, I know we’ve all been going through some… craziness, but I think I’ve found an outlet for our frustrations.”

“What?” Belle was still transfixed to the cartoon hero chasing a baby known as Minion for a midnight snack while its mother was too confused to react. 

“Let’s kill some people.” 

Belle turned to her eldest sibling, looking up into his nostrils. 

“Now, hear me out-” 

“Okay.” 

Silence was the sound. The television was filler at this point. 

Belle turned, breaking the spell, continuing on to watch the screen. Beau chewed on his cuticle; it tasted new, yet familiar whilst tossed back and forth from one side to another. He swallowed. Belle coughed, which’d enticed Beau to behave as he should before they both behave as they should not; he jumped onto her roughly and began to noogie her noggin. 

“Stop it!”

“Never!” Beau challenged, laughter ensued. 

****

 

Synopsis –

Belle is in her final year of high school and is the leader of a gang. To give them some real memories to keep, Belle decides to combine a kill list from her other gang members and have it finished before the year ends. But, the reappearance of her older brother Beau, back from his stint in prison for murder and now a man of God, throws a spanner in the works. Can they convince Beau to take up his violent mantle again? And can Belle keep control of her members?

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Thoughts –

Brothers of Blood starts off with a precocious young girl, Belle, and her older brother, Beau, developing a liking for murder. Where this idea came from is never really explained as you ca see from the quote above – that’s pretty much it. Nor is it explained why both of them at completely different ages are not in any way affected, consciously or otherwise with taking the lives of other people. This requires quite a bit of suspension of disbelief to get through the whole story.

The beginning of the book should be interesting and a quick read, but the obnoxiously verbose language makes each page a struggle to get through. Writers often fear dumbing things down or being too simplistic, but you get the same reactions when you use a thesaurus for every other word – alienating the reader, and reducing the chance that they’ll have the energy or momentum to keep turning the pages. This language bleeds into the dialogue as well swinging wildly from 19th century phrases to modern slang, it’s jarring and confusing when dealing with a teenage boy and his young sister. Murderous gang members asking each other for ‘huggles’ is a little bizarre to read.

As the story progresses and the older brother goes away for his crimes, time is hard to pin down in some scenes. You’ll be imagining characters talking by moonlight and in the next sentence they’ll be walking into a just opened bank. I found myself disorientated more than once, and this is actually a book that pulled me out of my reading schedule because it was such a difficult one to get through with all of the off putting language issues. I was never quite sure if it was daylight or nighttime, if it was 1819 or 2019.

This is a story of children murdering whoever they want. The children don’t show any other signs of being unhinged (not that that in itself isn’t enough) and carry on ordinary teenage lives. There are no signs that they see other people differently or that other people react to them differently. They just happen to be brutal murderers, no biggie. But this actually takes away from the killings. There’s nothing interesting about them, I don’t feel for the murderers or the victims and I couldn’t figure out what the point of the whole thing is. No one gets punished, and there are no consequences for the people who deserve them, even for the things they do outside the murders. Conflict is sorely missed in this story.

 

Brothers of Blood begins with a confused narrative voice that is somewhat cleared up  by the middle of the book but not soon enough for the reader to enjoy the story, if this is a story one can be said to ‘enjoy’. Characters seem to face little consequences or conflict to do with the vile acts they commit and the novel feels more like a fever dream than a glimpse into the life of Belle and her brothers. Read with caution, perseverance is needed to wade through the thesaurus heavy writing, and don’t expect a satisfying ending.

 

About the Author

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Tristan Drue Rogers has had his writing and poetry featured in literary magazines (such as Vamp Cat, Genre: Urban Arts, Weird Mask, and more), and horror anthologies (such as 100 Word Horrors Book 3 and Deep Fried Horror). His debut novel Brothers of Blood is available now. Tristan lives with his wife Sarah and son Rhett in Texas.

 

Links to Buy and Review

Amazon.co.uk

Amazon.com

Goodreads.com

 

 

What are your feelings on murderous children in fiction? Do you now of any black humour horror stories shedding a dark light on murder? Let me know down below!

‘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.*

****

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!

‘The Vaseline Dream Squad’ by Gil-Ethan Lodwood – Review

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

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On the way out the door, Rory asked Griggs to meet him at The Plaid Shack, a bar slash lounge near the office. Twenty minutes later they were ensconced in a booth near the back of the dimly lit establishment. After ordering drinks and necessary small talk, Griggs said, “So get to it. You’re not a socialize-with-the-underlings-after-work kinda guy, Rory.”

Rory smiled. “What do you think happened today?” he asked. 

“Fucking weird,” Griggs said, “Someone obviously did a bit of research before contacting our site.”

“But how could he know details about my personal life?” Rory asked. 

“Internet,” Griggs replied. “Every fucking thing is on the Internet nowadays, you’d be surprised.” 

“Not this stuff, not the stuff this weirdo was talking about,” said Rory. 

“Obviously it’s on the Internet,” countered Griggs. “How else would he know about it?” 

The waitress arrived with their drinks. Rory sipped at his cocktail, thinking. Was it possible that his crazy aunt had – who knows? – gone for psychotherapy and had told all the details of their torrid affair all those years ago and those details has been typed up in some sort of doctor’s notes and then uploaded to the Internet and accessed by some whacko fuck who then called the site? Rory supposed it was possible. Grigg’s phone rang.

“You wanted Griggs, you got him,” Griggs said answering his phone and winking at Rory. Griggs listened to whoever was talking on his phone, his expression changing from playful to perplexed. “How’d you get this number?” Griggs asked. 

“Internet,” said the voice on the phone. “Fuck, everything’s on the Internet presently,” the voice on the phone added. The voice giggled. 

 

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Synopsis –

In a non-descript office, a shift of workers are fielding chats from horny customers. Sex chats can be equal parts weird and disturbing sometimes, but today things are going to get downright bizarre. One user knows far too many personal things about the team, can hear them even though there is no mic and has only one demand as one by one they go missing. Is this a savvy internet troll out for some fun or is there a different entity making demands? Can the Vaseline Dream Squad team survive intact?

Thoughts –

The Vaseline Dream Squad Horror brings us into the story with a group of colleagues in an office, but it probably isn’t the type of office you assume it is. Same jargon, same targets to hit, same exchange of money from clients but these colleagues have a much more lax script to go. I’m used to seeing members of the sex work community in horror stories as only being prostitutes being treated like trash or murdered by serial killers, so to see an office of chat workers making jokes was something fresh, I only wish we’d spent a little more time getting to know the dynamic of the team and seeing the everyday issues that they went through while talking dirty to strangers. The actual name of the group is only vaguely mentioned once or twice which was a little confusing – The Vaseline Dream Squad is the team in the office though where this name comes from exactly is never explained.

 

The horror aspect, the entity that makes demands on the characters, comes in pretty abruptly. Not long after this, as in the extract above, the character of Griggs just up and walks out of the story. I still have no idea why and whether he was affected by the entity at all or just managed to get out before it got him. He’s vaguely reference later on, but you never find anything out. Then the twins walk out but we get to see their point of view at the very least – still not much of a motivation for walking out however. Another couple of hundred words or even just a few sentences of explanation would have cleared up a lot about the characters and why they do what they do.
The ‘bad guy’ in this story is very ethereal. You only really get a glimpse of them through the chat conversations. You can see their impact on the world off the screen but it didn’t feel enough to really grip me with terror. There is some kind of explanation for the evil that is stalking the Vaseline Dream Squad but I couldn’t help but feel that is wasn’t very concrete.

The Vaseline Dream Squad Horror is a short and interesting read. There are no deep dives into character and only a surface look at their murky pasts. A novella that is worth the read, but needs an open mind to enjoy.

 

About the Author –

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Gil-Ethan Logwood is an American writer from New Orleans. He writes mainly horror and science fiction and can be found on his Goodreads page here.

 

Links to Buy and Review –

Amazon.co.uk

Amazon.com

Goodreads.com

 

What’s your favourite mysterious horror story? How do you feel about omnipotent evils pushing the plot? Should we have more stories in all genres set around the every day lives of all kinds of sex workers? Let me know down below!