‘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.*

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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?

‘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!

‘The Pale White’ by Chad Lutzke – Review

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

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It’s been dark for an hour and I’m the first one up. Usually am. I stare at the ceiling and pretend I’m somewhere else, pretend it’s all been a dream. It took about a week to get used to staying up all night, sleeping all day. We rarely get to bed before noon. That’s Doc’s doing. Nobody wants to rape a girl in broad daylight, the sun spotlighting their sin.

I turn on the lamp next to my bed and look over at the top of the stairs, where Doc puts our food. The same empty plates sit there, stacked and licked clean. It’s been like this for days. Not a crumb in sight. Being hungry is one thing, but when food is the highlight of your day, the days slow down and stretch into something tortuous, maddening. If it weren’t for Alex and Kammie, I’d have taken a broken bulb to my wrist months ago.

 

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Synopsis-

The Pale White is the story of how three young girls held captive in horrific conditions finally take their freedom back. But what happens when that door that’s been locked for so long opens up to a  they world no longer recognise. Can they regain their sanity and really live normal lives? And more importantly, can they do it together?

 

My Thoughts-

I neglected to read a synopsis or anything really about The Pale White before diving straight in and as someone who generally avoids any kind of sexual abuse in media, especially when it involves children, it was a real sucker punch for me to read that first chapter. That part was totally on me and not the fault of the author, but I would like to warn anyone considering this story that though there are no graphic descriptions of sexual abuse as it all happens before the story begins, it is alluded to and not sanitized at all so only read if you can handle the subject matter.

That being said, I think the handling of the incredibly sensitive subject matter is done well and shown through the eyes of one of the girls, gives a much needed human aspect to victims of this kind of abuse. A lot of stories I’ve read have victims of sexual abuse, whether they’re children or adults, as voiceless and unfortunately like tragic objects to pull at heart strings but not act as fully formed characters, and this is not so with The Pale White. Lutzke dove deep into the minds and lives of these girls for this rather short story and gives readers just a glimpse into what they have been forced through but also what they use to cope with that, the personalities that they desperately try to cling to as their captor relentlessly tries to stamp it out of them.

The sisterly nature and the care that these girls have for each other, the genuine love that they feel would bring a tear to anyone’s eye and I think it’s the grounding force for the story. Lutzke makes you care for the individual personalities and not just the fact that these are children in a dire situation – you care about them by name.

 

The Pale White is a heavy read but the story is in good hands with Lutzke. I think it draws attention to the every day horror that is a reality for far too many people, far too many of them children, and that most of us don’t have to think about. This type of thing happens far too often and is largely swept under the rug. All three girls are written with respect and reverence, and story of The Pale White‘s conclusion will not be easily forgotten.

 

About the Author-

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(Chad Lutzke hails from Battle Creek, MI. where he lives with his wife and kids. For over two decades, he has been a contributor to several different outlets in the independent music and film scene, offering articles, reviews, and artwork. He has written for Famous Monsters of Filmland, Rue Morgue, Cemetery Dance, and Scream magazine. His fiction can be found in a few dozen magazines and anthologies. He is known for his dark, heartfelt novellas which have been praised by Jack Ketchum, Stephen Graham Jones, James Newman, Cemetery Dance and his own mother. You can find him on Twitter, Goodreads, and over at his website.

 

 

Links to Buy and Review-

Amazon.co.uk

Amazon.com

Goodreads.com

 

How do you feel about trigger warnings, do you prefer not to know? Should depictions of sexual abuse be sanitized for readers or should it be described in all it’s horrific detail? Have you read any of Chad Lutzke’s other books? Let me know down below!

‘Screechers’ by Kevin J. Kennedy & Christina Bergling – Review

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

 

“The brilliant blue flash of the electrical storm lit the old city as the thunder raged overhead. The creature knelt in the shadows, knowing there would be no prey moving around in such conditions. The rain didn’t bother it and neither did the thunder-claps, but the giant electrical spears that sometimes came from the sky and assaulted the buildings raised concern. It had hunted with itsbrothers and sisters for the first years of its life, before returning from a rare solo hunt to watch the jagged spears tear a building apart, sending it crashing to the ground on top of its family. The creature was the only survivor and had been on its own ever since.”

Synopsis

Screechers is a post-apocalyptic fantasy novella with dark elements to it. We’re introduced to the world through the eyes of the last adult ‘Screecher’, a humanoid intelligent predator that strikes out on its own owner to later discover that the last new born of its species has survived. We also meet human twins Austin and Denver and their dependent friend Brooklyn as they strike out from their destroyed community to survive in the hostile landscape they live in. Will either of these groups survive in their new isolation? What happens when inexperienced human meets engineered killing machine?

 

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So, yet AGAIN I did not read the description well enough and AGAIN thought this was a novel and not a novella. That being said, is one of my only complaints. The world is so well set up, the characters so quickly real and three dimensional that I think it’s a shame this isn’t a chunky fantasy novel. While reading it, with the disjointed nature, the bad weather, and the predator species, reminded me of ‘The Shadowleague‘ series from Maggie Furey – always a good thing. I was a little confused as to the era of the story, whether its sometime in the future or a separate universe altogether, but as it is a a short story this doesn’t interrupt the reading experience as it would in a larger novel.

Screechers doesn’t take a deep dive into much, but you can dip your toe into what community means, what makes a family, and the tough decisions that need to made when there are no rules to follow. Bergling and Kennedy work well as co-authors, never feeling like there were conflicting styles in the narrative. I do wish there had been a little more gore/horror involving the humans, there are some great fight scenes sure, but not as much darkness as I’d hoped to see. I still really enjoyed reading Screechers however and would happily read it again.

If you’re a fan of post apocalyptic fantasy and creatures that could disembowel you by accident, you’ll enjoy Screechers and if you like it as much as I did, I’m sure you’ll be checking out the many other works that Kennedy and Bergling have put their name to in the horror genre as well.

About the Authors:

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Kevin J. Kennedy is a Scottish Horror author and editor, and a Bram Stoker Award nominee. You can find him on Twitter and on his website here.

 

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Christina Bergling is a an American horror writer from Colorado. You can find her on Twitter and on her website here.

 

Where to find it:

Amazon.co.uk

Amazon.com

Goodreads

 

Do you want to see more horror in fantasy? Do you have a favourite horror monster? Do you prefer full novels or bitesized novellas to satiate your thirst for darkness?

‘Sour Candy’ by Kealan Patrick Burke – Review

*I bought this book of my own volition because the cover looked cool and I want to read more Irish horror*

 

Remembering his first and only encounter with the woman prior to the accident summoned once ore dear for the well being of the child and he looked past the woman to the young man by the car, who looked back at him and gave a shrug and a single shake of his head. 

No kid here, buddy. 

Phil swallowed and looked up into the terrible face of the wounded woman as she loomed over him. He was too weak to defend himself, too dazed to understand all that had happened in the past few minutes, and was happening still. Somewhere along the line his life had jumped the tracks and he had found himself in a nightmare, and like the worst kind of nightmare, he could not move, the people around him too busy chatting, redirecting traffic, or filming the scene with their iPhone to realize the very real and possibly dangerous drama taking place on the edge of it. 

The woman looked down at him. This close he could see that the side of her face was swelling, darkening, and her lower lip had split almost down to the cleft in her chin, exposing the dots of blood on her gums. Nausea rose in her chest and he prayed he wouldn’t vomit, for surely the violence of her response would further aggravate his own injuries. 

“Don’t,” was all the self-defense he could muster. 

“Yours now,” the woman said.

 

Synopsis

Phil Pendleton is in Walmart buying some candy for his girlfriend. There’s an irritating child and an exhausted mother getting on his nerves so he leaves… and they follow. Soon, Phil finds that he has no girlfriend, a child that isn’t his though no one will believe him, and a new diet that consists entirely of sour candy. Phil has to decide whether he should accept this new bizarre and forced fatherhood, or figure out who or what this child is, and how to get his old life back.

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So the first thing you need to know about this book is that it is a tiny book. Maybe I didn’t read the description properly when I was buying it but I assumed it was a full sized novel, but it is actually a slim novella, clocking in at just seventy-four pages long.

 

Once I got over that however, I found the initial diving into the story to be irresistible. I’m a sucker for catchy taglines and as you can see in the picture above, ‘Four months to the day he first encountered the boy at Walmart, the last of Phil Pendleton’s teeth fell out.’, hooked me immediately. Not to mention the great cover design – it may seem disjointed between a skull and the name ‘Sour Candy’, however it works and gives the book a dark and gritty look.

 

Instantly I was made uncomfortable as soon as the child showed up. The anxiety was instant and ever increasing as myself and Phil realised that his new reality was not something he could simply explain his way out of. ‘Sour Candy’ is a story of altered reality, terrifying and creepy children, and the horror of an all sugar diet. It’s short, sour, and will stay with you long after you’ve closed those pages. It was a story that sounded unique to me, I’d never heard the like of it before and that’s why I bought it. I wanted to try out Burke’s writing and this one grabbed me fully, my money pretty much walking out of my pocket itself.

I found the story to be well paced and enthralling, a little strange and bizarre however Burke works the story well, keeping the surrealism to a minimum for most of the novella but packing a punch with the reveal of what is really happening. Now, the ‘creatures’ that exact their torture on Phil aren’t fully explained so there are a few questions to roll around your skull once you’ve finished the story, but I didn’t feel cheated out of an answer, it much better suits the story keep the mystery intact. ‘Sour Candy’ is an unsettling story that would easily slot into an episode of The Twilight Zone.

I can say honestly that I would be happy to purchase another one of Burke’s books in the future.

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I thoroughly enjoyed ‘Sour Candy’ as an anxiety inducing nightmare of the worst proportions. Being stuck with an inter-dimensional child to look after and having no evidence to show they aren’t mine, all with that horrific fuzzy teeth feeling that too much sugar gives you, hits me right where it hurts. Burke manages to keep you enthralled in the story, throwing you right in the deep end with Phil and his inevitable and inescapable new reality. It is a short, sharp read that leaves you feeling incredibly relieved that you are not in fact Phil. An uncomfortable story of insidious and unstoppable creatures outside our realm of imagination. This novella will make you uncomfortable, nauseous, and even claustrophobic. I do recommend.

 

About the Author – 

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Kealan Patrick Burke is an Irish author currently living in Ohio, America. He has many acclaimed works and in 2004 was awarded a Bram Stoker for his novella The Turtle Boy. You can find him on Twitter and Instagram.

 

Links to Buy:

Amazon.co.uk

Amazon.com

Goodreads

 

Have you been infested by a parasitic child that isn’t yours? Have your teeth fallen out due to excessive sour sweet consumption? Do you know how to get sugar out of the pages of a novella? Let me know down below!

 

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