Classic Monsters Unleashed – James Aquilone (editor)

It’s a given that whenever Seanan McGuire contributes a story to an anthology I’ll be reading it but, in my experience, anthologies themselves can be a bit hit or miss. This anthology promises stories that “reanimate, reimagine, subvert, and pay homage” to monsters you already know and love.

Classic Monsters Unleashed includes twenty nine (!) stories and one poem, featuring Dracula, the Mummy, the Invisible Man and so many other favourites. Basically, it was destined to wind up on my TBR pile.

If I can say I liked half of the contributions in an anthology I usually call that a win. Having thoroughly enjoyed over three quarters of the monstrous fun on offer here, it’s safe to say this is one of my favourite anthologies to date.

I tried to come up with a list of my top five reads but am happy to report that I failed. So, the six I loved the most, listed in the order I read them because it sounds too much like hard work to rank them, are:

Höllenlegion by Jonathan Maberry

Unleashes Dr. Moreau

“What you are planning is madness”

Old Monsters Never Die by Tim Waggoner

Unleashes a character inspired by the Wolfman

“I’ve come to do something much worse.”

The Viscount and the Phantom by Lucy A. Snyder

Unleashes Phantom of the Opera

“The Palais Garnier presents a unique opportunity for a young gentleman of your tastes.”

Modern Monsters by Monique Snyman

Unleashes a character inspired by The Fly

“I hope you’re ready to see something spectacular”

Hacking the Horseman’s Code by Lisa Morton

Unleashes Headless Horseman

What? It isn’t supposed to do that.

“Can” Doesn’t Mean “Should” by Seanan McGuire

Unleashes Mad Scientist

We’re the children of the laughter and the lightning, and we exist in the pause between “can” and “should”.

Because I read an advanced copy I haven’t seen all of the illustrations that will be included in the final version yet. What I have seen, though, are absolutely incredible! I want framed copies of all of them, but none more than Mister Sam Shearon’s Frankenstein’s Monster.

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My aimless wandering has resulted in me accidentally discovering there’s going to be another Unleashed anthology. There’s currently a Kickstarter for … wait for it … Shakespeare Unleashed! I definitely need this in my life.

Thank you so much to NetGalley, Crystal Lake Publishing and Black Spot Books for the opportunity to read this anthology.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Stories of famous monsters in a new horror anthology edited by James Aquilone and featuring Joe R. Lansdale, F. Paul Wilson, Jonathan Maberry, Ramsey Campbell, and many others.

Dracula, Frankenstein’s Monster, the Bride of Frankenstein, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Dr. Moreau, the Headless Horseman, the Invisible Man, the Phantom of the Opera, the Wicked Witch of the West – they’re all here, in this collection of horror short stories that reimagine, subvert, and pay homage to our favourite monsters and creatures.

Written by the biggest names in the genre – including Joe R. Lansdale, F. Paul Wilson, Jonathan Maberry, Ramsey Campbell, Lisa Morton, Owl Goingback, Richard Christian Matheson, Seanan McGuire, Maurice Broaddus, Dacre Stoker, Linda D. Addison, Alessandro Manzetti, Tim Waggoner, John Palisano, Mercedes M. Yardley, Lucy A. Snyder, Gary A. Braunbeck, Rena Mason, and Monique Snyman.

And monstrously illustrated by Colton Worley and Mister Sam Shearon. 

Asian Ghost Short Stories – Lee Murray (editor)

I love ghost stories so I was really looking forward to reading this anthology. Including a blend of old and new stories from East, South and Southwest Asia, this should have been right up my alley. 

The introduction had me hooked but the stories themselves didn’t give me the scares I was looking for. For me, part of the problem was the order the stories were told in. 

While it seems logical to order an anthology alphabetically by author, it meant I was sometimes reading multiple stories by one author, one after another; some began to feel repetitive. I think I would have gotten much more out of the stories if they’d been grouped by country, with introductions exploring the cultural and religious significance of the particular types of ghosts I’d be meeting in each section.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Flame Tree Press for the opportunity to read this anthology.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Another deluxe edition of new writing and neglected perspectives. Asian ghosts – from India to Sri Lanka, China to Korea, Japan to the Philippines – can be both terrifying and comforting. Underpinned by strong cultural beliefs in the cycles of life and ancestor worship, the nature of Asian spirits differs from that of their counterparts in other areas of the world. The possibility is more instinctually accepted that ghosts remain with us, as part of the world, whether we can see them or not. Featured here are all kinds of stories from across East, South and Southeast Asia: classic weird tales by the likes of Pu Songling, Rabindranath Tagore, S Mukerji, Im Bang and Yi Ruk, Lafcadio Hearn and Yei Theodora Ozaki, are complemented by stories by Asian writers of today. An egui (the Chinese version of a ‘hungry ghost’) is exorcised, a vicious jiangshi (Chinese zombie-like revenant) is encountered in the night, a Bengali shakchunni (the ghost of an unsatisfied bride) poignantly seeks love with devastating effect, a family is haunted by vengeful Korean gwishin, and the iconic Japanese tragedies of Oiwa and O-Kiku are revisited. 

Someone in Time – Jonathan Strahan (editor)

Self confessed romantiphobe here. So why did I put my hand up to read a romance anthology? In my defence, there’s time travel, one of my very favourite things to read about and do. Shh! You’re not supposed to mention that bit.

Also, there are contributions by two of my favourite authors, Alix E. Harrow and Seanan McGuire, so it was kind of inevitable that this book would find its way to me in every timeline.

Roadside Attraction by Alix E. Harrow

When Floyd approaches the pillar of sandstone covered in graffiti, he’s certain he knows what he’s searching for. 

“Did you find your destiny?” 

The Past Life Reconstruction Service by Zen Cho 

Rui is using the Past Life Reconstruction Service because he’s seeking inspiration. 

“Your dream won’t affect anyone or anything else. The most it can do is change the world inside you.” 

First Aid by Seanan McGuire 

Taylor has been preparing for her one way trip to Elizabethan England for years. 

There was no going back. There never had been. 

I Remember Satellites by Sarah Gailey

When you work for the Agency, a short straw trip means you’re not coming back. 

Everybody draws the short straw in the end. 

The Golden Hour by Jeffrey Ford 

Mr Russell is trying to write his novel when he meets the time traveller. 

“Past or future?” I asked.
“Where the clues lead, young man. Where else?” 

The Lichens by Nina Allan 

There’s something important in the past that’s not accessible in Josephine’s time. Meanwhile, I’m sitting here fantasising about the idea of books being able to be transported to the past. 

So you know about lichens?

Kronia by Elizabeth Hand 

So many fleeting moments, finding one another over the course of lifetimes. 

Unrecognized: I never knew you.

Bergamot and Vetiver by Lavanya Lakshminarayan 

To save the past, this time traveller is willing to destroy their future. 

“To thirst is to be alive, but to devour is to be monstrous.” 

The Difference Between Love and Time by Catherynne M. Valente 

Loving the space/time continuum can be complicated. 

Be my wife forever, limited puddle-being. 

Unbashed, Or: Jackson, Whose Cowardice Tore a Hole in the Chronoverse by Sam J. Miller 

It all comes back to this moment. 

“Walk me home?” 

Romance: Historical by Rowan Coleman 

Communicating through books is probably the most romantic thing ever. 

Beth steadied herself; after all she had spent her whole life in training for this moment, preparing unreservedly to believe in the impossible.

The Place of All the Souls by Margo Lanagan

In that realm, they’re perfect. In this one, they’re happily married … but not to one another. 

Whatever came of the discovery, there was at least a moment’s peace to be enjoyed, now that she knew. 

Timed Obsolescence by Sameem Siddiqui

Two time travellers meet throughout time. 

“Was discovering random historical factoids what drew you into this line of work?” 

A Letter to Merlin by Theodora Goss 

Guinevere loves Arthur in every lifetime. 

“You’re going to be dead in twenty-four hours. Would you like to save the world?” 

Dead Poets by Carrie Vaughn 

The love of poems and poets. 

The study of literature is the process of continually falling in love with dead people. 

Time Gypsy by Ellen Klages 

Sara Baxter Clarke has been Dr. McCullough’s hero since she was a child. 

“I’m offering you a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.” 

I have four favourite reads in this anthology: the two I was here for in the first place (no big surprise there) and two by authors who were new to me. 

Rowan Coleman’s story made me tear up. It was also the only story that made me interrupt the reader sitting beside me (who was partway through a chapter of the book they were reading), declaring that they need to read this right now. In case you’re wondering, I was forgiven; they loved it as much as I did. It’s just such a beautiful story.

Ellen Klages’ story, where heroes can live up to your expectations, had me railing against injustice even as I was feeling all mushy about the growing love between the protagonists.

The bottom line? If a romantiphobe can find so much to love about this anthology, then the rest of you are in for a treat.

Content warnings include mention of abortion, death by suicide, domestic abuse, homophobia, miscarriage and sexual assault. Readers with emetophobia may have trouble with a few sentences.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Solaris, an imprint of Rebellion Publishing, for the opportunity to read this anthology.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Anthology of inclusive tales of people through time looking for one another and for ways for the world to be better.

Even time travel can’t unravel love.

Time travel is a way for writers to play with history and imagine different futures – for better, or worse.

When romance is thrown into the mix, time travel becomes a passionate tool, or heart-breaking weapon. A time agent in the 22nd century puts their whole mission at risk when they fall in love with the wrong person. No matter which part of history a man visits, he cannot not escape his ex. A woman is desperately in love with the space/time continuum, but it doesn’t love her back. As time passes and falls apart, a time traveller must say goodbye to their soulmate.

With stories from best-selling and award-winning authors such as Seanan McGuire, Alix E. Harrow and Nina Allan, this anthology gives a taste for the rich treasure trove of stories we can imagine with love, loss and reunion across time and space. 

Including stories by: Alix E. Harrow, Zen Cho, Seanan McGuire, Sarah Gailey, Jeffrey Ford, Nina Allan, Elizabeth Hand, Lavanya Lakshminarayan, Catherynne M. Valente, Sam J. Miller, Rowan Coleman, Margo Lanagan, Sameem Siddiqui, Theodora Goss, Carrie Vaughn, Ellen Klages.

Orphans of Bliss – Mark Matthews (editor)

This is the third (and final) anthology of addiction horror edited by Mark Matthews, but my first. I want to say that I thoroughly enjoyed this read but that feels so inappropriate given the subject matter. Some stories were horrific; not the jump scare variety, but the type that gets under your skin. Many of the stories will be accompanying me for a while, whether I want them to or not.

You Wait For It, Like It Waits For You by Kealan Patrick Burke 

Reality isn’t easily distinguishable for Sean, as the days pass in the room with no door. 

“Do you know where you are?”
“Inside myself.” 

One Last Blast by S.A. Cosby

Sometimes not even death can stop you from needing a fix. 

“I … can … smell it.” 

What We Name Our Dead by Cassandra Khaw

Eleanor returns to her childhood home, a place of fear and pain. 

Hurt changes you. Hurt stays. Hurt gnaws a nest for itself in the heart and stays burrowed there until you die. 

Huddled Masses, Yearning to Breathe Free by John F.D. Taff 

Alan Denbrough is a collector. If you have trypophobia, you may want to skip this one. 

I don’t hoard so much as … collect. And yes, there’s a distinction.

Through the Looking Glass and Straight Into Hell by Christa Carmen

This rehab offers something different: virtual reality recovery simulation. 

“What do you wish it would show you?” 

Holding On by Gabino Iglesias

Guillermo needs to get Max and Alondra out of Section C before it’s too late. 

In Section C, nothing good ever happens at night.

Buyer’s Remorse by Samantha Kolesnik

Sometimes the punishment fits the crime. 

“Everything has a price” 

A Solid Black Lighthouse on a Pier in the Cryptic by Josh Malerman 

If you draw the attention of a witch in a bar, be prepared for the consequences. 

“Drink and you are drunk.” 

Singularity by Kathe Koja 

We’re in space, but I was fairly lost. I may need to reread this one. 

You know you’ve never been wanted the way the dark wants you now. 

My Soul’s Bliss by Mark Matthews 

We meet two addicts, whose lives had diverged, at a funeral. 

Because that’s what happens with certain moments. They imprint themselves on you and you can’t change them. They define you, become the hinge all your decisions swing upon. 

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I began this anthology but out of ten stories, I came away with five favourites, those by Cassandra Khaw, John F.D. Taff, Christa Carmen, Josh Malerman and Mark Matthews. 

Now I’m keen to read Garden of Fiends and Lullabies for Suffering.

Content warnings include mention of ableism, addiction, death by suicide, homophobia, mental health, physical abuse, racism and suicidal ideation. Readers with emetophobia, beware.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Wicked Run Press for the opportunity to read this anthology. 

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

“My soul’s bliss kills my body, but does not satisfy itself.” – Emily Bronte

Addiction is the perpetual epidemic, where swarms of human moths flutter to the flames of hell. Because that warm blanket of a heroin high, that joyful intoxication of a pint of vodka, that electric energy from a line of cocaine, over time leaves you with a cold loneliness and a bitter heart. Relationships destroyed, bodies deteriorate, loved ones lost, yet the craving continues for that which is killing us – living, as the title suggests, like an Orphan of Bliss.

Welcome to the third and final fix of addiction horror and the follow up to the Shirley Jackson Award Finalist, Lullabies for Suffering. A diverse table of contents brought together for an explosive grand finale – an unflinching look at the insidious nature of addiction, told with searing honesty but compassion for those who suffer.

Table of Contents includes: 

Kealan Patrick Burke
Cassandra Khaw
Josh Malerman 
S.A. Cosby
John FD Taff
Christa Carmen
Gabino Iglesias
Samantha Kolesnik
Mark Matthews
Kathe Koja

The three Addiction Horror anthologies, Garden of Fiends, Lullabies for Suffering, and Orphans of Bliss, do not have to be read in order and are not sequential.

Dark Stars – John F.D. Taff (editor)

Horror is something like black taffy these days, enough elasticity to stretch across any room (even the word “room” feels a little confining while discussing the modern state of horror: Is it a room actually? Could be something else), and you’ll find that elasticity here in the pages of this book. 

The Attentionist by Caroline Kepnes

Reg and Maeve really want Tony to call. Naturally, he’ll have a friend so the sisters will be able to go on a double date. 

The phrase you learn in school is fight or flight. As if those are the only choices. As if we’re all so quick to throw a punch or make a run for it. Some of us are slow. We just need a minute to think. 

A Life in Nightmares by Ramsey Campbell

When past and present, reality and nightmares collide. 

“I don’t know why I should dream about the past” 

Papa Eye by Priya Sharma

When Ravi goes to the island, they see life and death in a whole new light. 

“We’ve been struggling with how to explain it. Now you can see for yourself.” 

Volcano by Livia Llewellyn

A new job, a new colleague, a pervasive darkness. 

It still bothers me that I can’t remember last night. 

All the Things He Called Memories by Stephen Graham Jones 

When you’re quarantining with your partner, a research scientist, who wants to discuss your greatest fear. You know, besides the pandemic. 

“Because our minds are puzzle boxes,” Marcy said, obviously. “You can twist them this way, that way, and, if you’re really lucky, maybe once in a while you unlock one of them.” 

Trinity River’s Blues by Chesya Burke 

Jazz, a murder of crows and a woman who sees dead people. 

“This here … this is longing. Its power manifested. You don’t understand who you are and so you let your fears and insecurities control you.” 

The Familiar’s Assistant by Alma Katsu

Eric has spent weeks tracking him down. Now he’s standing at the vampire’s door. 

You can’t accept a monster in your life and think that you’re safe. That you’ll be able to control him. 

Swim in the Blood of a Curious Dream by John F.D. Taff 

Peter just wants to drive his son to their new home. The weather has other ideas. So does Peter’s dead wife. 

Because, as I’ve learned, separation doesn’t diminish the love a child has for their parent.
Nor does death. 

The Sanguintalist by Gemma Files

The blood speaks to Lala. 

Tell me now. Show me, if you can’t form the words. Let me see it.
Let me see it all. 

Mrs. Addison’s Nest by Josh Malerman

This all started in detention fifteen years ago. It ends now. 

REMEMBER WHERE YOU ARE 

Challawa by Usman T. Malik

Karisma returns to Pakistan with her husband. While she’s there, she plans to do some research. 

“Challawa. A mercurial creature that shimmers and is gone. A mirage that evaporates when you get close to it.” 

Enough For Hunger and Enough For Hate by John Langan

Michelle is trying to track down her brother’s killer. And his body. 

“There was nothing I wanted more than to spend every waking second with her.” 

Usually when I pick up an anthology, it’s because there’s one particular author’s story I need to read. This time around, that author was Stephen Graham Jones. 

With anthologies, I always find the stories are a bit of a mixed bag. I love this because there’s usually something for everyone. I also dread this because I know it’s just as likely I’ll encounter stories that I’m not so keen on.

My horror preference is the “would you like more blood with that?” variety. I actively seek out reads where I have the overwhelming urge to look over my shoulder and question whether it’s safe to turn out the lights, as well as my decision to eat before reading. I’m not as comfy with ambiguity so some reads here didn’t work as well for me. 

I enjoyed many of the stories but they didn’t elicit fear in me. The most horrified I felt was when I realised I’d finished more than one story with no way of explaining what it was about because I had no idea.

One of my favourite things about anthologies is the opportunity to find authors whose books have somehow flown under my radar. While I loved the story I came here for, I was also introduced to two authors whose books I definitely need to investigate in the near future: Priya Sharma and Usman T. Malik.

Content warnings include addiction, death by suicide, domestic abuse, miscarriage and sexual assault. Readers with emetophobia may have trouble with some scenes.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Titan Books for the opportunity to read this anthology. 

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Created as an homage to the 1980 classic horror anthology, Dark Forces, edited by Kirby McCauley, this collection contains 12 original novelettes showcasing today’s top horror talent. Dark Stars features all-new stories from award-winning authors and up-and-coming voices like Stephen Graham Jones, Priya Sharma, Usman T. Malik, Caroline Kepnes, and Alma Katsu, with seasoned author John F.D. Taff at the helm. An afterword from original Dark Forces contributor Ramsey Campbell is a poignant finale to this bone-chilling collection.

Within these pages you’ll find tales of dead men walking, an insidious secret summer fling, an island harbouring unspeakable power, and a dark hallway that beckons. You’ll encounter terrible monsters – both human and supernatural – and be forever changed. The stories in Dark Stars run the gamut from traditional to modern, from dark fantasy to neo-noir, from explorations of beloved horror tropes to the unknown – possibly unknowable – threats.

It’s all in here because it’s all out there, now, in horror.

When Things Get Dark – Ellen Datlow (editor)

This anthology features short stories from some of my favourite writers, including Seanan McGuire. It also introduced me to some writers whose work I hadn’t read before. All are paying tribute to Shirley Jackson.

Like any collection of short stories, there were some I absolutely loved. My favourites in this anthology were those by M. Rickert, Elizabeth Hand, Seanan McGuire, Joyce Carol Oates, Josh Malerman and Kelly Link.

Although the other stories were well written, I often failed to connect with either the main character or the plot. Some I enjoyed, until I realised I’d run out of story before the thing I felt was missing showed up. I don’t expect to love every story in an anthology, though.

Usually when I review anthologies, I’ll include a short quote and a sentence to describe each story: what it’s about, its theme, or what I loved or didn’t love about it. I started doing that here but then abandoned the idea. There were some stories that I couldn’t explain in a sentence without spoiling them for you.

There were others that I couldn’t explain because, quite honestly, I need someone to explain them to me. Perhaps a reread will help me find the missing puzzle pieces. Maybe what I perceived as deliberate ambiguity was actually the literary equivalent of a joke’s punchline going over my head. I may read the review of someone smarter than myself and when they explain it, the lightbulb will finally turn on above my head.

So, instead of giving you an explanation and a quote, I’m only providing a quote here.

Funeral Birds by M. Rickert

The truth was she rarely went to the funerals. Delores was special.

For Sale By Owner by Elizabeth Hand

“That’s trespassing.”

“Only if we get caught,” I replied.

In the Deep Woods; The Light is Different There by Seanan McGuire

She moved here for a haunting, and even if the house refuses to be haunted, she fully intends to be.

A Hundred Miles and a Mile by Carmen Maria Machado

It’s strange, the knowing-not-knowing. It twitches like something that won’t die.

Quiet Dead Things by Cassandra Khaw

“We’re going to die for what happened.”

Something Like Living Creatures by John Langan

“You saw something!” Samantha said.

“Did you?” Kayla said.

“Yes,” Jenna said.

Money of the Dead by Karen Heuler

On one side, life; on the other, death. It was almost, sometimes, as if they could see across the divide, or hear a furtive, melancholy whistle.

Hag by Benjamin Percy

“Without you, the island starves.”

Take Me, I Am Free by Joyce Carol Oates

“Just sit here. Don’t squirm. I’ll be watching from the front window.”

A Trip to Paris by Richard Kadrey

Why won’t you stay dead?

The Party by Paul Tremblay

“I do get into the spirit of my themes. Perhaps too much.”

Refinery Road by Stephen Graham Jones

It was just the three of them, same as it had always been. Same as it would always be.

The Door in the Fence by Jeffrey Ford

“Some people, when they get old, all they can think about is dying. Some, on the other hand, find freedom.”

Pear of Anguish by Gemma Files

The past is a trap and memory is a drug.

Memory is a door.

Special Meal by Josh Malerman

“Do you really not know what today is?” Dad asked. “It’s okay if you don’t.”

Sooner or Later, Your Wife Will Drive Home by Genevieve Valentine

Never be stuck on the road alone, that was the rule.

Tiptoe by Laird Barron

Trouble is, old, weathered pictures are ambiguous. You can’t always tell what’s hiding behind the patina. Nothing, or the worst thing imaginable.

Skinder’s Veil by Kelly Link

Skinder may show up. If he does, DO NOT LET HIM IN.

While I didn’t find any of the stories scary, there were some that were accompanied by a growing sense of dread. Others were unsettling. Then there were those that left behind confusion in their wake. But that’s the beauty of anthologies; there’s usually something for everyone. The times where a question mark appeared over my head? Those stories are probably someone else’s favourites.

Content warnings include child abuse, death by suicide, domestic abuse, mental health and self harm.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Titan Books for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

A collection of new and exclusive short stories inspired by, and in tribute to, Shirley Jackson.

Shirley Jackson is a seminal writer of horror and mystery fiction, whose legacy resonates globally today. Chilling, human, poignant and strange, her stories have inspired a generation of writers and readers.

This anthology, edited by legendary horror editor Ellen Datlow, will bring together today’s leading horror writers to offer their own personal tribute to the work of Shirley Jackson.

Featuring Joyce Carol Oates, Josh Malerman, Paul Tremblay, Richard Kadrey, Stephen Graham Jones, Elizabeth Hand, Cassandra Khaw, Karen Heuler, Benjamin Percy, John Langan, Laird Barron, M. Rickert, Seanan McGuire, and Genevieve Valentine. 

Dark Screams Volume Nine – Brian James Freeman & Richard Chizmar (editors)

I love horror but for some reason I don’t usually have a lot of luck where horror anthologies are concerned. Thankfully this was one of the better ones I’ve read.

My favourite story was by Kelley Armstrong. As has been the case with this series, one story takes up about half of the book; this time it’s Lee Thomas’ Torn.

Invitation to the Game by Kelley Armstrong – 😱😱😱😱

When you’re offered a promotion at this company you receive an invitation to the Game. Only no one knows what the Game entails until it’s their turn to play.

“It’s an honour, right? We have to remember that.”

Summer of ‘77 by Stewart O’Nan – 😱😱😱😱

There’s more than fun in the sun at the lake this summer. This peek into the world of a predator could make you second guess helping anyone again.

I didn’t really need the mask; it was more for them.

The Dead Years by Taylor Grant – 😱😱😱

Emma’s been gone for years. Now he’s found Emma’s doppelgänger. But Margot’s definitely not Emma.

“Today’s monstrosity is tomorrow’s masterpiece.”

The Blackout by Jonathan Moore – 😱😱😱

A body goes missing from the morgue during a storm.

“Before the lights went out, everything in there was fine.”

Variations on a Theme from Seinfeld by Peter Straub – 😱😱😱

Clyde’s reflection has gone missing. Again.

The image before him in the mirror’s rectangular surface depicted an unusually ordered bathroom empty of humanity, especially as represented by himself.

Torn by Lee Thomas – 😱😱😱😱

The search for a missing child is only the beginning of this story.

How do you go on when something like that happens to your child?

Content warnings include addiction, death by suicide, sexual assault and suicidal ideation.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Hydra, an imprint of Random House Publishing Group, for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Kelley Armstrong, Stewart O’Nan, Taylor Grant, Jonathan Moore, Peter Straub, and Lee Thomas weave six hair-raising yarns proving that appearances can be deceiving – and deadly – in this horror anthology assembled by Brian James Freeman and Richard Chizmar.

INVITATION TO THE GAME by Kelley Armstrong
Vivienne dreams of moving up in the company, and now she’s got her chance. All the company asks in return is that she prove her absolute devotion by playing a simple, silly little game.

SUMMER OF ’77 by Stewart O’Nan
Suntanned and bleached blond, the boys and girls of summer never expect anything to interrupt their carefree days. They never see me coming until it’s too late.

THE DEAD YEARS by Taylor Grant
Emma was the great love of his life, even after she vanished. So when she reappears at a cocktail party fifteen years later, he’ll do whatever it takes to keep her from slipping away again.

THE BLACKOUT by Jonathan Moore
When a body goes missing from the morgue, Detective Nakahara is called in to investigate. Despite the storm, it should be a simple case. After all, a dead body can’t just walk out on its own … right?

VARIATIONS ON A THEME FROM SEINFELD by Peter Straub
At six years old, Clyde noticed that his reflection decided not to show up in the mirror. Whenever it happens, he just needs to go through the mirror and fetch him. The trick is making it back.

TORN by Lee Thomas
Luther’s Bend is the kind of place where bad things just aren’t supposed to happen, but even the sleepiest towns have secrets … and the full moon can bring retribution for all manners of sins.

Women of a Certain Rage – Liz Byrski (editor)

There’s so much for women to be angry about … Discrimination because of your sexuality, race, ability, gender. The treatment of asylum seekers. Climate change. The inaction of politicians on any number of issues. People refusing to hear you or take you seriously because you’re a woman.

Yet, as women, it’s likely we grew up internalising our anger, swallowing it down, because to be visibly angry is not considered feminine. When we did speak up, our voices were silenced, our experiences minimised, our reality dismissed. Is it any wonder we’re angry?

Even though I’ve been an adult for longer than I was a child, I’ve yet to become comfortable with anger. Anger, when I was growing up, equalled violence and that’s not the manifestation I’m looking for. I want anger to spur me on to action, to propel me to right wrongs, not cause destruction.

In this collection, twenty women write about rage. Among them are writers, teachers, activists and medical professionals, and they range in age from 20’s to 80’s. They have diverse backgrounds but they’re all Australian.

Like other anthologies, some contributions spoke to me more than others. Reneé Pettitt-Schipp’s description of a young asylum seeker’s hope brought tears to my eyes. Goldie Goldbloom’s recollections of Max made me wish I knew him personally. Carly Findlay’s words hurt, as I imagined each scenario she described, but they also left me with hope because there are women like Carly who speak truth into the lives of others.

Rather than tell you what I thought of each contribution I’m going to instead share quotes with you.

Introduction by Liz Byrski

Let us go forth with fear and courage and rage to save the world. – Grace Paley

A Door, Opening by Victoria Midwinter Pitt

Anger is a state of opposition.

It is not merely intellectual, or philosophical. It’s personal.

It is the direct, visceral, spiritual experience of being at odds with something.

Quarantine by Reneé Pettitt-Schipp

Time and time again, it has been proven to me that we either honour the depth of each human emotion, maintaining the fullness of our capacity to feel, or we cut ourselves off and, in walking away from anger and heartbreak, turn our backs on the possibility of our most expansive expression of being a human in this world.

Waiting on the Saviour by Nadine Browne

I wouldn’t be the person I am, nor would I have had the resilience I have, without these women. But nothing we thought or did was ever any good unless it was certified by a man. The path to God itself was through a man. I’m still shocked by how these women can negate their own power, simply by the fact of their gender.

My Father’s Daughter by Jay Martin

I’m still sad, though, that the world that shaped my dad – and still shapes so many men – to believe that their value is in being providers, teachers, knowers of things. It meant I never got to know all of the vulnerabilities, dreams, passions and fears he must have harboured that made him who he was.

Regardless of Decorum: A Response to Seneca’s ‘Of Anger’ by Julienne van Loon

One of the things that makes me angry about Seneca’s ‘Of Anger’ is how bloody reasonable he is throughout.

The Girl Who Never Smiled by Anne Aly

Rage creeps up on you. It’s stealthy like that. Rage has to beat you down first and then, when you’re exhausted and you think you can’t possibly rage any more, it lingers beneath the surface, ready to pounce again. You can see it simmering behind the eyes of the downtrodden, the oppressed and the frustrated – but only if you look hard enough. Rage shadows you.

The Club by Sarah Drummond

The white road markers are plastic and so, instead of a row of smashed wooden posts where he ploughed them down, they flipped back into upright position after the accident like nothing had happened. For some reason, I found this inanimate insouciance disturbing. How dare those posts stand up again. Didn’t they know what had happened here?

Stuck in the Middle by Carrie Cox

Mark Twain, a man who apparently spent his whole life tossing pithy sayings at a sea of scribes, has been credited with comparing anger to an acid, one that can do far more harm to the vessel in which it is stored than to anything on which it is poured. This is how I feel about anger today.

To Scream or Not to Scream by Olivia Muscat

What makes me most upset is that I know where most people’s ignorance is coming from. It’s fear.

Fear of the unknown.

Fear that they may end up like me.

To the Max by Goldie Goldbloom

Goldie remembers how Max would introduce her to them as ‘the love of my life’. Whenever she sold a story, he would grip her forearms and say, ‘The cream always rises to the top.’

The Thief by Nandi Chinna

I found it impossible to articulate the magnitude and intensity of my inner experience and carried it around in my body like a ball of barbed wire that scratched and tore at my insides.

Write-ful Fury by Claire G. Coleman

Fury. It can flow hot and fast like fire dancing along a trail of petrol; it can flow cold, slow and relentless like a glacier; or as cold and breathtakingly fast as an avalanche, leaving me breathless and dying. Either way, when fury passes it’s hard to imagine anything in its path surviving.

Love More by Jane Underwood

Rage sits, like a bulky body part, ready to detonate, able to cause maximum damage. It’s not like the white-hot adrenal flash we call fury, that’s here and gone: you can relieve fury with an upraised middle finger. It’s not like anger – curl up the corner of anger – only sadness and fear there. If you can shift the bulk of a rage – find some squashed high-grade injustice there.

#AustraliaBurns: Rage, a Climate for Change by Margo Kingston

Rage begets action.

The Body Remembers: The Architecture of Pain by Rafeif Ismail

We cannot negotiate with our oppressors without relinquishing part of our own existence.

Everything is Awesome! by Mihaela Nicolescu

The notion of a ‘fair go’ disguises the reality of an unfair system and places the blame on the individual when that system fails them. A genuine ‘mate’ does not judge you for going through a hard time. And an evolved society places more value on the rights of all citizens to have their basic needs met than on the rights of a few citizens to accumulate ridiculous wealth (while one in six children live in poverty).

Uluru Statement from the Heart by Fiona Stanley

I think that in today’s world of corporate, political, bureaucratic and individual corruption and lack of care, we need to convert our anger to action more than ever.

Vicarious trauma: I Was You and You Will Be Me by Carly Findlay

Ableism starts with you.

And it can stop with you, too.

Seen and Not Heard by Meg McKinlay

And what is buried, of course, doesn’t always remain so; when conditions are right – or wrong? – it will vent, even erupt.

Women of a Certain Rage? by Eva Cox

Angry. Cranky. Mad. Can you think of any context when applying these words to a woman would be positive?

Content warnings include ableism, attempted suicide, death by suicide, domestic violence, eating disorders, homophobia, medical negligence, mental health, racism, self harm, sexism, sexual assault, xenophobia and war.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

This book is the result of what happened when Liz Byrski asked twenty Australian women from widely different backgrounds, races, beliefs and identities to take up the challenge of writing about rage.

The honesty, passion, courage and humour of their very personal stories is engergising and inspiring. If you have ever felt the full force of anger and wondered at its power, then this book is for you. 

Halloween Carnival Volume 5 – Brian James Freeman (editor)

I’ve been dragging my feet on this anthology series for years now. I was so excited to sink my teeth into some Halloween scares but they consistently disappointed me so I gave up. Now it’s Halloween month again and with one volume to go, I decided to dive back in and hope for the best.

Devil’s Night by Richard Chizmar – 🎃🎃🎃🎃

The newspapers reported the story of what happened that night but that’s not the whole story.

Halloween may be a night for make-believe ghosts and goblins, but you’d better be sure to turn on all the lights and lock your doors on Devil’s Night. Because that’s when the real monsters lurk …

The Last Dare by Lisa Tuttle – 🎃🎃🎃

The tower house is still there, all these years later. Going inside was the last dare between childhood best friends.

“Tell us the story about the tower house”

The Halloween Bleed by Norman Prentiss – 🎃🎃🎃

An interview with a difference.

“What if Halloween … bleeds into other days? It doesn’t matter when the story is written, or when you read it. What matters is that it has an effect on you. It casts its spell.”

Swing by Kevin Quigley – 🎃🎃🎃

Death follows love. Every time.

Most thought she was dancing because she was free, but I knew the real Jessica. She danced because she was trapped.

Pork Pie Hat by Peter Straub – 🎃🎃🎃

Hat, a story from his childhood and all that jazz.

“Most people will tell you growing up means you stop believing in Halloween things – I’m telling you the reverse. You start to grow up when you understand that the stuff that scares you is part of the air you breathe.”

While the stories included in this anthology were okay, I didn’t get the Halloween horror vibe I was looking for. I didn’t find any of the stories scary at all. I’m glad I finally made it through to the end of this series and there were some decent stories along the way, but overall I remain disappointed.

Content warnings include death by suicide.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Hydra, an imprint of Random House Publishing Group, for the opportunity to read this anthology.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Richard Chizmar, Lisa Tuttle, Norman Prentiss, Kevin Quigley, and Peter Straub unmask monsters hiding in plain sight in an anthology of heart-pounding short fiction assembled by horror author and editor Brian James Freeman.

DEVIL’S NIGHT by Richard Chizmar
You’ve read about what happened that night. What you don’t know is the true extent of the damage. The papers got it wrong – and the truth is so much worse than you thought.

THE LAST DARE by Lisa Tuttle
Elaine hasn’t been back to her hometown in years. The house she lived in is gone. The tower house isn’t – nor are the stories of the fate that befalls whoever dares to go there.

THE HALLOWEEN BLEED by Norman Prentiss
People think there’s some sort of mystical power that allows enchantments and witchcraft to come to life on Halloween night. But real magic obeys no calendar – and true evil strikes whenever it’s least expected.

SWING by Kevin Quigley
In Hollywood, everyone lives forever. At least that’s what I used to think … before Jessica. But no one seems to live long when they’re around me.

PORK PIE HAT by Peter Straub
When it comes to jazz, there are players, and there are legends. “Hat” was a legend. His real name didn’t even matter. Still, he had his secrets – secrets best left buried in the past. 

Dark Screams Volume Seven – Brian James Freeman & Richard Chizmar (editors)

I was disillusioned by some horror anthologies last year but October is calling to me, so here I am again. I’m not sure what it is about horror short stories but I don’t find them scary and would rarely even classify their content as horror. While all of these stories are okay, I didn’t find any scares amongst them.

My favourite was James Renner’s A Monster Comes to Ashdown Forest (In Which Christopher Robin Says Goodbye).

Lizardman by Robert McCammon – 🎃🎃🎃

The lizardman has been searching for Old Pope for a long time. Tonight he will find him.

Oh, yeah, the swamp had teeth. Eat you up, bury you under. That was how it was.

A Monster Comes to Ashdown Forest (In Which Christopher Robin Says Goodbye) by James Renner – 🎃🎃🎃🎃

You’ll never see Winnie-the-Pooh the same again.

“Sometimes the bad things take up the most room in your heart. Don’t they?”

Furtherest by Kaaron Warren – 🎃🎃🎃

Those boys died in the dunes but there’s more to the story.

“So don’t go into the dunes, kids. You never know who’s lurking in there.”

West of Matamoros, North of Hell by Brian Hodge – 🎃🎃🎃

This is the photoshoot from hell.

“Everybody’s got a plan until the knives come out.”

The Expedition by Bill Schweigart – 🎃🎃🎃

Nazis vs. the wolf.

Had they known then of the chest and the doom that awaited them all, Bruner would have chosen prison.

Snow Shadows by Mick Garris – 🎃🎃🎃

A man and boy are haunted by the death of a woman.

“Did you love her?”

Content warnings include death by suicide.

Thank you to NetGalley and Hydra, an imprint of Random House Publishing Group, for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Robert McCammon, James Renner, Kaaron Warren, Brian Hodge, Bill Schweigart, and Mick Garris reveal sinister secrets and unsavoury pasts in a haunting anthology of short stories collected by acclaimed horror editors Brian James Freeman and Richard Chizmar.

LIZARDMAN by Robert McCammon
The lizardman thinks he knows about all the mysterious dangers of the Florida swamps, but there are things lurking in the bayou that are older and deadlier than his wildest dreams.

A MONSTER COMES TO ASHDOWN FOREST (IN WHICH CHRISTOPHER ROBIN SAYS GOODBYE) by James Renner
Although every child dreams of visiting Hundred Acre Wood, only one has ever actually frolicked in that fabled forest – and survived.

FURTHEREST by Kaaron Warren
She’s been going to the beach since she was a child, daring the other kids to go out past the dunes where those boys died all those years ago. Now she realises that the farther out you go, the harder it is to come back.

WEST OF MATAMOROS, NORTH OF HELL by Brian Hodge
After the success of their latest album, Sebastián, Sofia, and Enrique head to Mexico for a shoot under the statue of Santa Muerte. But they have fans south of the border who’d kill to know where they get their inspiration.

THE EXPEDITION by Bill Schweigart
On a quest to bring glory to the Führer, Lieutenant Dietrich Drexler leads his team into the ruins of the Carpathian Mountains. But the wolf that’s stalking them is no ordinary predator.

SNOW SHADOWS by Mick Garris
A schoolteacher’s impulsive tryst with a colleague becomes a haunting lesson in tragedy and terror when he’s targeted for revenge by an unlikely, unhinged rival.