Close to Midnight – Mark Morris (editor)

Another day, another anthology I simply had to read because it includes a story by Seanan McGuire.

Wolves by Rio Youers

No one else can see the wolves that have begun appearing to Kieran.

“What is this?”

“The way forward,” Kieran replied.

Best Safe Life For You by Muriel Gray

Andy is certain he’s found the best home security money can buy and it only costs £5 a month.

“Used to be a good neighbourhood this. You let things run wild, well then.”

Souvenirs by Sharon Gosling

There’s only one thing Reg wants to take with him to Wisteria Lodge.

“It was there,” he said. “It was always there.”

The Operated by Ramsey Campbell

Beal has just received some bad news when someone offers him a solution.

“I’m going to be fixed.”

In the Wabe by Alison Littlewood

Vivian has been missing for three years. Her mother is determined to find her.

What do you eat under there?

Years. They taste just like milk.

I Promise by Conrad Williams

Alex’s father may have died but he’s not gone.

“Dad … what are you doing here?”

Flat 19 by Jenn Ashworth

Eve needs a break from her life. W can help.

“And where will I go, while it all … happens?”

The Forbidden Sandwich by Carl Tait

If you believe the story the tour guide told Dr Melgar, when you add a certain ingredient to a tomato sandwich, you will become brilliant. For a time.

“I keep worrying they will serve the Forbidden Sandwich.”

Autumn Sugar by Philip Fracassi

The smell of burning autumn leaves brings back fond childhood memories for Charles.

“I thought you finished the leaves yesterday.”

Collagen by Seanan McGuire

Our quest to defy our age ultimately leads to our undoing.

We had so many warnings. Warning after warning, and we ignored them all, because that’s what people do.

Remains by Charlie Hughes

The Railwayman visits her station over and over again.

The Railwayman wants my remains.

The Floor is Lava by Brian Keene

Mark knows Marsha is right when she urges him to go to the doctor.

But that fear was nothing compared to the terror and panic he’d been experiencing for the last half hour.

Ever since the bathroom floor had become lava.

The True Colour of Blood by Stephen Laws

His father has something important to tell him about their bloodline.

“It’s the blood, boy. It’s all about the blood.”

The Nine of Diamonds by Carole Johnstone

Annie really needs this job.

“Have you ever just wanted to walk up to someone and say I curse you?”

Room For the Night by Jonathan Janz

Mr Nelson is paying Stu to stay one night, alone, in his bedroom. It sounds like easy money.

“That’s when the trouble always begins.”

Welcome to the Lodge by Alison Moore

Helena is about to spend her first night at a sleep clinic.

“Does everyone here suffer from nightmares?” he asked.

“Everyone. It’s what we do.”

Going Home by Evelyn Teng

Isla’s parents made a really big mistake. Now they’re trying to fix it.

“We made our choice. Now we have to live with it.”

The Spaceman’s Memory Box by Laura Mauro

If you get the blue marble, you have to knock on the Spaceman’s door.

There’s nothing harder to let go of than the thing you almost had

Bags by Steve Rasnic Tem

Hank’s father is dying and it’s up to Hank to clean out his father’s hoard.

“Keep the ones you love close,” he whispered hoarsely. “They’re all you have in the end. To the rest of the world, you’re food.”

Rise Up Together by Adam L.G. Nevill

Mike moved to the seaside town five years ago and since then he’s become old before his time.

“I leave the curtains closed. Never open them at the back. Or the windows. Back is kinda … out of bounds. So please don’t open them.”

While I didn’t personally find any of the stories scary, I enjoyed them. I had four favourites: Jenn Ashworth’s story of a women who gives pieces of herself to the different roles she plays in her life, Carl Tait’s artist struggling to capture the image in his head on canvas, Seanan McGuire unravelling the cause of humanity’s unravelling and Charlie Hughes’ story of a killer getting rid of the evidence of his crime.

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

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Close to Midnight is the third volume in an annual, non-themed horror series of entirely original stories, showcasing the very best short fiction that the genre has to offer, and edited by Mark Morris. This new anthology contains 20 original horror stories, 16 of which have been commissioned from some of the top names in the genre, and 4 of which have been selected from the 100’s of stories sent to Flame Tree during a 2 week open submissions window.

The Creeper – A.M. Shine

They were just meant to be stories.

Doctor Sparling’s email couldn’t have come at a better time. Stuck in a retail job since completing his masters in history, Ben is both bored and broke. Doctor Sparling wants to pay Ben and Chloe, an archaeologist, to visit a village where time has stood still. Of particular interest to Doctor Sparling is the legend of the creeper.

Confident in his interviewing abilities, Ben expects this job to be easy money but the locals aren’t exactly welcoming.

‘You shouldn’t have come here. There are some things that you shouldn’t know. Nobody should.’

The Watchers made me want to read more books by this author. The Creeper has confirmed that I need to read everything they ever write. Both books major in atmosphere, with a practically tangible dread and claustrophobic feel to them.

You see him three times.

This is a book that takes on superstition and the fear that accompanies it, but it’s not immediately clear if the threat is human or supernatural. The body horror in this book was cringeworthy in the best possible way.

As was my experience with The Watchers, I was conflicted as I read The Creeper, unsure if I was hoping everyone would die so I could witness the horror firsthand or if I wanted the characters to find a loophole that could possibly spare them.

Sometimes hope fades with the light.

Some beliefs are dangerous.

‘Don’t forget about the uh-oh,’ he said

‘Oh, the uh-oh is the best part.’

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Head of Zeus for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Superstitions only survive if people believe in them…

Renowned academic Dr Sparling seeks help with his project on a remote Irish village. Historical researchers Ben and Chloe are thrilled to be chosen – until they arrive.

The village is isolated and forgotten. There is no record of its history, its stories. There is no friendliness from the locals, only wary looks and whispers. The villagers lock down their homes at sundown.

It seems a nameless fear stalks the streets, but nobody will talk – nobody except one little girl. Her words strike dread into the hearts of the newcomers. Three times you see him. Each night he comes closer…

That night, Ben and Chloe see a sinister figure watching them. He is the Creeper. He is the nameless fear in the night. Stories keep him alive. And nothing will keep him away…

Death for Dinner Cookbook – Zach Neil

I loved Zach’s The Nightmare Before Dinner so was keen to see what yummy horrors he’d be serving up here. There are sixty plant-based recipes inspired by movies and TV shows on the menu, with a selection of Sickening Starters & Sides, Monstrous Mains, Depraved Desserts, Cursed Cocktails and Atrocious Accompaniments.

It wasn’t always immediately clear to me what the connection was between the recipe and its inspiration. Having said that, there were others that were immediately apparent and delightfully appropriate, like The Exorcist inspired Regan’s Pea Soup Vomit (With Bits).

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One of the things I love about cookbooks is being able to drool over photos of the finished products. The presentation of the food in this book was one of the drawcards for me.

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Some recipes, like The Crow inspired Devil’s Night Cauliflower Wings, featured a movie poster instead of the food. Some recipes had no accompanying photos at all.

I’m most interested in spectacularly failing to replicate the Trick ‘r Treat inspired All Hallows’ Eve Lasagna and Dexter inspired Blood (Orange) Cheesecake Trifle. Both of these came with photos so I’ll get to compare my efforts with what the food was actually supposed to look like.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Rock Point, an imprint of Quarto Publishing Group, for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

From the mad mind of acclaimed chef, Zach Neil comes this killer plant-based cookbook inspired by your favourite horror movies and TV shows. The follow-up to his best-selling cookbook, The Nightmare Before Dinner, the Death for Dinner Cookbook delivers gruesome goodness in 60 stick-to-your-guts comfort-food recipes, from startling starters and monstrous mains to depraved desserts and cursed cocktails, including:

  • Crystal Lake BBQ Sliders, inspired by Friday the 13th – The only thing better than warm sunshine, campfires, and working up an appetite after escaping the clutches of Jason Vorhees are these pulled mushroom sliders.
  • Children of the Hominy, inspired by Children of the Corn – An ancient recipe from Gatlin, Nebraska, this pozole will make anyone rise up from the stalks. 
  • The Hills Have Fries, inspired by The Hills Have Eyes – This hill of hand-cut french fries smothered in a béchamel and chilli sauce and topped with fresh scallions, red onion, fakon, cilantro and lime sour cream will have everyone watching you.
  • Blood Orange Cheesecake Trifle, inspired by Dexter – Complete with blood orange, vegan cream cheese, and hints of lemon, this dessert is the right amount of sweet and airy – no gloves or plastic wrap are required to make. 
  • Never Sleep Again, inspired by Nightmare on Elm Street – Stay awake (and alive!) with this alternative take on an old-fashioned cocktail made with a shot of espresso.

Though the recipes may look terrifying, they are easy to make and will impress even the most stubborn carnivores. So, get ready to throw the ultimate Halloween party or some epic movie nights. Let’s just hope Freddy, Michael, and Jason stay on the screen and off the guest list. [cue the beet-juice splatter!]

Nightmare Fuel – Nina Nesseth

“Horror films don’t create fear. They release it.”

Wes Craven

As a kid, my approach for all things scary looked very much like ‘if my hands are over my eyes, it doesn’t exist’. I was sure that Gremlins were going to invade the car when my parents decided that taking me to the drive-in to watch it for the first time would be fun. I knew with absolute certainty that Bruce the shark had the ability to magically pixelate himself so he’d be able to come through the shower head in teensy tiny pieces, only to reform and attack me where I stood. Don’t even get me started on the library ghost from Ghostbusters.

I’ve always wondered how some of the movies that terrified me as a kid have become some of my all time favourites, how a kid whose imagination was able to make every scary scene so much worse than it really was grew up to love horror.

This book, conveniently combining the many subgenres of horror that I love (I’m an Enthusiastic Horror User with some Supernatural Horror User thrown in there) with neuroscience, which I always want to learn more about.

I learned how we “collaborate with horror films to create tension and build our own fear”. There were examples of how characters attempt to defend themselves against the threat of monsters, human and non-human, through fight, flight, freeze and fawn.

Humans are also extra receptive to things appearing in our peripheral vision. In fact, we may even be faster at reacting to threats that appear in our peripheral vision than to threats that appear right front of our faces.

The author takes on jump scares, why we wind up laughing after a scene scares us, how what has scared us over time has changed what horror looks like on the screen, the role sound (and its absence) plays in freaking us out and why rewatches don’t pack the punch of the first time.

I’m still not overly clear how a self proclaimed scaredy cat transformed into someone who can’t get enough horror but I now know why my go to method for surviving scary scenes as a kid made everything scarier.

Studies have concluded that closing your eyes against a scary scene is ineffective, because you can still hear what’s going on – and whatever images your brain conjures up will probably be even scarier than the scene you’re avoiding.

I loved how all of the science and the discussion surrounding studies and experiments was brought back to examples of specific characters or scenes in specific horror movies. There’s a seriously bingeworthy list of movies mentioned throughout the book at the end. I need to rewatch some of these after reading about them and, happily, I learned of some movies I’ve never seen that I now absolutely have to.

There are some pretty major spoilers revealed throughout the course of the book but, let’s face it, if you haven’t already seen a fairly large percentage of the movies mentioned, you probably wouldn’t be picking up this book in the first place.

Whether you’re into a specific subgenre of horror, including slashers, creature features, body horror, transformation horror, torture horror, revenge films and psychological horror, of if you’re an all rounder like me, there’s something here for you.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Tor Nightfire for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Nightmare Fuel by Nina Nesseth is a pop-science look at fear, how and why horror films get under our skin, and why we keep coming back for more.

Do you like scary movies?
Have you ever wondered why?

Nina Nesseth knows what scares you. She also knows why.

In Nightmare Fuel, Nesseth explores the strange and often unexpected science of fear through the lenses of psychology and physiology. How do horror films get under our skin? What about them keeps us up at night, even days later? And why do we keep coming back for more?

Horror films promise an experience: fear. From monsters that hide in plain sight to tension-building scores, every aspect of a horror film is crafted to make your skin crawl. But how exactly do filmmakers pull this off? The truth is, there’s more to it than just loud noises and creepy images.

With the affection of a true horror fan and the critical analysis of a scientist, Nesseth explains how audiences engage horror with both their brains and bodies, and teases apart the elements that make horror films tick. Nightmare Fuel covers everything from jump scares to creature features, serial killers to the undead, and the fears that stick around to those that fade over time.

With in-depth discussions and spotlight features of some of horror’s most popular films – from classics like The Exorcist to modern hits like Hereditary – and interviews with directors, film editors, composers, and horror academics, Nightmare Fuel is a deep dive into the science of fear, a celebration of the genre, and a survival guide for going to bed after the credits roll.

Three Days in the Pink Tower – E.V. Knight

Tomorrow. Everything will be different tomorrow.

As far as I’m concerned, any book that includes sexual assault could easily be shelved as horror, but this one truly earns that classification. This novella recounts the author’s experience of being kidnapped and raped by two men when she was seventeen. To say that this was a difficult read is the understatement of the year.

Much of the dialogue between Josey and the men come directly from the author’s statement to the police; this added a whole other layer of reality to something that was already painfully real.

If you have experienced sexual assault, you need to know that the sexual assaults described in this novella are brutal. Please take good care of yourself while reading by upping your self care, taking breaks when you need them and ensuring you utilise any supports you have available to you.

I want women to read this and know that no one can take your story from you. It is yours, and you can do whatever you want with it.

Rescripting can be such a helpful tool for sexual assault survivors, particularly in managing flashbacks. Here, the author incorporates tarot and symbolism into her story to rewrite the ending.

“You choose the cards from this point on.”

Content warnings include domestic abuse, gun violence, kidnapping and sexual assault.

Thank you so much to Creature Publishing for the opportunity to read this novella.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Josey Claypool begins the summer before her senior year at a carnival, where a fortune teller with milky-white eyes gives her a foreboding tarot reading. She’s spooked, but nothing could prepare her for the following day when two strange men show up at her front door.

Josey is kidnapped at gunpoint and brought to a pink cabin in the woods where she is held prisoner. In her darkest moment, the fortune teller appears and gives her a deck of tarot cards, which she must cast and interpret in a fight for her life.

In this work of speculative autofiction, award-winning author EV Knight reclaims the narrative of her own past in an exploration of trauma, agency, and survival.

Friday the 13th #1: Church of the Divine Psychopath – Scott Phillips

Welcome to Camp Crystal Lake: Blasphemy Edition 

Father Eric Long has had a revelation. The time has come for sinners to be judged by the Heavenly Vessel, A.K.A., Jason Voorhees. 

“Big guy. Hockey mask. Has issues?” 

The one and the same. 

The Ministry of the Heavenly Vessel are going on a road trip because it turns out that Father Long isn’t alone in his delusion. Like all good cult leaders, Long has managed to convince his entire flock to sell all of their worldly possessions and hand the proceeds to him. They’ve secured the lease to Camp Crystal Lake and the entire congregation are moving in. 

It’s not like the Father’s going to let a little thing like the fact that Jason is currently fish food prevent him from carrying out his mission. After retrieving a soggy Jason from the depths of Crystal Lake and nailing him to a cross (twice), freaky Father sets out to resurrect him. Jason’s going to church! What could go wrong?! 

Meanwhile, a strike team from the Agency, a covert branch of the government, are also making their way to Crystal Lake. Because what this situation desperately needs is more firepower. Besides the arsenal that the churchies apparently brought with them, that is. 

“I saw this in a horror movie once” 

A church, a strike team and Jason Voorhees converging on Camp Crystal Lake may sound like the beginning of a really bad joke but what it actually is is a recipe for a really big body count. I’m guessing that this “God-sanctioned Jason Voorhees bloodbath” takes place on Friday the 13th but no one ever showed me a calendar.

So, who are the victims this time around? This “salad bar of murderous possibilities” consists mostly of the strike team and church members. 

“Straight to hell for you.” 

It’s hard to figure out the exact body count but we’re talking more than fifty.

The people start dying in the prologue but these kills happen before the events of this book so I’m not counting those.

There’s a strike team mission prior to Mission Hockey Mask where a couple of strike team members stop breathing and all but two of the baddies have the kind of bad day that prevents you from having any other kind of day ever, but we don’t know how many there were to start off with.

The strike team members, some of who appear to be most content when they’re busy fighting amongst themselves, are lining up to die.

* Jeff Townsend – the six foot six leader of this suicide mission. He’s probably going to go down with the metaphorical ship.
* Walter Hobb – he’s five foot six, has soap opera looks and he’s recently suffered a serious case of demotion. He can’t see so well out of one of his eyes as a result of the mission that put him in the bad books but he’s a main character so he might just get to go home to his wife, Lauren. Lauren is pretty peeved that Hobb signed up for Operation Suicide By Jason. She runs a used bookstore, though, so she’s definitely going to survive. Not even Jason is going to lay a machete on someone who takes such good care of books.
* Samantha Noon – she’s 20 and a total badass. But… she has sex during the book and anyone who ever took Horror 101 knows that’s a death sentence.
* Chris Seaver – Townsend’s second in command for this mission. He also has sex, with Noon. Nice knowing you, Chris.
* Benjamin Hurley – he’s given a first name but I don’t remember hearing anything that could be accused of being a backstory. That doesn’t bode well for him.
* Bruno Ortega – he’s a pervert. Enough said.
* Acheson – he’s relaxed enough to leave his gun outside of reaching distance while he wanders around in the lake. Seriously, Acheson?
* Moseley – he’s a medic so he’s got to survive long enough to try to put intestines back inside bodies, right?
* Lovinger – this guy loves Burt Reynolds movies. Make of that what you will.
* Stilton, Blair, Leonard, Sisson, Garb, Connolly, Howard, Chaffin, Marr – the author didn’t care enough about these dead men walking to give them first names.
* Hurley, Miller, Hall – these men don’t get names until their death scenes. This may be a clue.

Then there are the true believers who, after the initial slaughter, get together for a cuppa. As you do. 

“Trouble has found its way to our little ministry.” 

* Father Eric Long – he’s the reason we’re in this mess to begin with. The way he spiritually guides three widows is beyond creepy.
* Kelly Mills – although she’s only 26, Kelly has a backstory. She doesn’t believe in God but she does believe in Long. Well, she wants to get in his pants, anyway. 
* Curtis Rickles – this former marine is the most detestable waste of oxygen you’ll find in this book. When he’s not shooting people, he’s busy sexually assaulting a minor. He needs to die a really drawn out, creative death.
* Don James – one of the Father’s inner circle, Don’s a biker with tattoos he probably got in jail.
* Meredith Host – 17 year old Meredith is at Crystal Lake with her parents, who are in their 60’s. Kelly is her best (only?) friend. That’s not to say this virgin doesn’t have lust in her heart.
* Roger (or Robert) – okay, so we don’t even know for sure what this man’s name is. That’s not a good sign.
* Denice Keenan, Jennifer Crenshaw, Lorelei Picardi, Charlotte Rutherford – these women share a cabin with Kelly, one of our main characters. These women may need to be sacrificed for the greater good if Jason wanders in. Especially Denice. She chose the bottom bunk so she’s more accessible.
* Travis Hornby, John Sullivan, Mark Brody, Susan Perkins, Susanna Brookwalter – yeah, I don’t know enough about these people to ensure their survival.
* Patricia Krenkle and Manny Krenkle, Mr and Mrs Host – do we know what Jason’s views are on marriage?
* Stan – I feel like there was a Stan but now I’m not so sure. 
* Ronald Shearing, Joseph Bookwalter – we know they existed only because we know they died.

Eleanor, Steve and Frenchie never leave Lefty’s so unless Jason’s feeling a bit parched, they’re probably okay. Sonia, the waitress, will probably make it as well. 

There’s an unnamed farmer driving a chicken truck in the general vicinity but he’s smart enough to keep driving so I’m fairly certain he’s going to keep breathing until at least the next time Friday the 13th rolls around.

This book reconfirms why this place is known as Camp Blood. The insides are now your outsides action is fairly consistent, once you get through the extensive backstories of a couple of contenders.

After the prologue, Jason doesn’t even get to kill anyone until page 172. His first kill is probably his best, although the next three are pretty decent as well. I came for machete slicing and dicing and Jason squishing heads like watermelons. Jason got a bit lazy in this book, primarily introducing people to his machete. Some kills only warranted a sentence and others happened off the page.

Rivalling Jason’s machete in the body count are guns. There are also five funerals we need to attend for people whose COD will need to be determined by a coroner because, while I’m guessing they were shot or met explodey ends as a result of a grenade, I don’t know for sure.

The rules that govern who should die in Jason’s world were pretty much thrown out the window in this book. The pure and hell bound were both fair game.

The person I most wanted to die did but their manner of death didn’t live up to my hopes. It needed to be less generic and much more painful and dramatic.

I wondered how much gunfire Jason could take. Hundreds of bullets didn’t slow him down at all. Speaking of not slowing down, honouring his ability to walk faster than his victims can run, Jason somehow managed to make a return trip to somewhere that takes half an hour to drive to in record time.

Handy hint: When the leader of your church starts citing Waco to guide you through current events, you may be in a cult.

Best description

Blood shot skywards like a gory lawn sprinkler. 

Content warnings include sexual assault. Readers with emetophobia may have trouble with a couple of scenes.

Next Friday the 13th readHell Lake, where an executed serial killer meets Jason in hell.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

The first in a brand new series of Friday the 13th shockers! Jason Voorhees is reanimated and worshipped by a bizarre religious cult. When a SWAT team is called in, it’s time for Jason to go about his bloody work and wages a one-man war against both sides.

Mastodon – Steve Stred

Tyler’s mother disappeared during a hiking trip when he was a baby. Seventeen years later, his father, who spent much of Tyler’s childhood teaching him survival skills, goes missing in the same remote area. 

Refusing to heed the warnings of those who try to convince him his father is already dead, a determined Tyler sets off to find him. Remaining undetected by the military personnel, who have cordoned off “an area larger than Vancouver”, is only one of the dangers Tyler faces in the unforgiving wilderness. 

“These woods aren’t like any woods you’ve ever been in.” 

There’s a growing dread as Tyler hikes deeper into the woods and I was eager to find out what secrets it held. I was not disappointed.

If you’re at all squeamish and aren’t keen on bloodshed of the ‘insides are now your outsides’ variety, then this is probably not the book for you. But if your perverse enjoyment of horror grows exponentially as the red stuff begins to flow freely enough to form a river, then you’re in for a treat. This is a creature feature with guts. Lots of them. All over the page. 

On and on it went, horror after horror. 

It was dark. It was bleak. There were scenes that made me want to cringe and turn away. It was so much fun, in an ‘abandon all hope, ye who enter here’ kind of way. You will never look at a clearing the same way again.

This was my first Steve Stred read. It will not be the last.

A word of warning: don’t let anyone tell you what’s in the woods. This is something best revealed with Tyler as your guide.

P.S. I never thought an afterword of a horror book would make me cry, but then I was introduced to OJ. I’m not going to say anything else, though, or I’ll start again.

Thank you so much to the author for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

17 years ago, Tyler Barton was born in the Rocky Mountains, while his parents were on a hike.

On that day, his mother disappeared, never to be seen again.

Now, history repeats itself.

On the 17th anniversary of her disappearance, Tyler’s father is flying home when the plane he’s on disappears – in the same area where his mother was last seen.

Undeterred by officials, Tyler decides to hike into the area in search of his father, hoping to find him alive and bring him back to safety.
But there’s a reason that area is prohibited to enter and even though Tyler doesn’t care, he’ll soon find out that the wilderness can hide some of the deepest, darkest fears known to man.

The Watchers – A.M. Shine

‘All paths lead somewhere’ 

Mina had planned on making some easy money when she agreed to deliver a parrot to a collector in Connemara. Mina’s car breaking down in the middle of nowhere was not part of the plan. Neither was winding up in a “prison of concrete and glass” in the depths of the forest.

There Mina meets Madeline, Daniel and Ciara. But they’re not alone. They’re being watched. 

Nothing should have to live in captivity 

At various times, A Quiet Place and Peadar Ó Guilín’s The Call popped into my mind as I was reading but I don’t think it’s fair to make comparisons as this story is its own monster. Or should I say, it contains its own monsters.

The watchers were an ever present threat, made all the more creepy by the fact that I got to know them by their shrieks. The fear of the unknown is almost always scarier than fears you can identify. Not knowing what the watchers were or even what they looked like for much of the story added to my unease.

I wondered if this story would have packed more of a punch if it was a novella, but it was a quick, compulsive read. I had some trouble for the longest time trying to figure out why it was so difficult for the characters to escape the forest when they were able to make their way into its depths in the first place, but ultimately decided that I didn’t care. I was having too much fun flip flopping between hoping for a bloodbath and wanting everyone to survive. I’m keen to see what horrors the author will introduce me to next. 

Stay in the light 

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Aries, an imprint of Head of Zeus, for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

You can’t see them. But they can see you.This forest isn’t charted on any map. Every car breaks down at its treeline. Mina’s is no different. Left stranded, she is forced into the dark woodland only to find a woman shouting, urging Mina to run to a concrete bunker. As the door slams behind her, the building is besieged by screams.

Mina finds herself in a room with a wall of glass, and an electric light that activates at nightfall, when the Watchers come above ground. These creatures emerge to observe their captive humans and terrible things happen to anyone who doesn’t reach the bunker in time.

Afraid and trapped among strangers, Mina is desperate for answers. Who are the Watchers and why are these creatures keeping them imprisoned, keen to watch their every move?

Nothing But Blackened Teeth – Cassandra Khaw

“I think this is all a mistake. Us coming here. Us being here. I think we’re going to regret it. That’s all.” 

Five twenty somethings have travelled to Japan for a wedding. Most of the group have dated one another at some point and although this is supposed to be a joyous occasion, the ‘friends’ spend much of their time re-examining past wounds. 

The Heian mansion where they’re staying is rumoured to be haunted. The story goes that a groom died on his way to their wedding and the bride’s response was to ask her wedding guests to bury her alive. Totally normal request. The guests obliged her because … reasons? But the story doesn’t end there; some unlucky lady is sacrificed each year to keep her company. 

“Like, this feels unholy.” 

I loved the concept and was really interested in exploring some Japanese folklore. Given this is a novella, I had hoped the horror would be flinging itself at me from all angles but I spent most of the read wishing the characters would stop bickering amongst themselves so ghost girl could get on with her haunting. 

I anticipated feeling dread or the need to look over my shoulder. Instead, I was frustrated to be spending time with characters I couldn’t connect with and confused as to why they were choosing to spend time with one another.

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

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

A group of thrill-seeking friends in search of the perfect wedding venue plan to spend the night in a Heian-era mansion. Long abandoned, and unknown to them, this mansion rests on the bones of a bride, and its walls are packed with the remains of the girls sacrificed to keep her company.

Their night of food, drinks, and games quickly spirals into a nightmare, as the house welcomes its new guests. For lurking in the shadows is the ghost bride with a black smile and a hungry heart.

And she gets lonely down there in the dirt.

My Heart is a Chainsaw – Stephen Graham Jones

A lot of people’s insides are about to start being on the outside.

Meet Jade Daniels, my new favourite outcast.

“Town reject, nice to meet you.”

Jade’s exterior is basically armour covered in spikes but beneath the surface there’s, well, more sharp, stabby things. But beneath that is someone I want to be friends with. She even reminded me a little of me, the weirdo who word vomits about their obsession to everyone in the vicinity, not that anyone asked.

Despite having an encyclopaedic knowledge of slasher films, Jade lives knowing that she can never be a final girl herself. She’s simply not pure enough. This doesn’t stop Jade from desperately wanting a slasher to turn her hometown red, though.

Real final girls only want the horror to be over. They don’t stay up late praying to Craven and Carpenter to send one of their savage angels down, just for a weekend maybe. Just for one night. Just for one dance, please? One last dance?

Finally, she sees the signs that her dream may, in fact, be coming true. Although her current slasher theory may very well be right, Jade has a reputation in this town, so for the longest time she might as well be Cassandra. After all, who’s going to take the “weird horror chick” seriously?

It’s been four weeks since I finished this book and I’m still thinking about Jade on a daily basis. I want to tell you all of the things I loved about her but I loved everything about Jade, from her resilience to her ‘stay away from me’ vibe to her enthusiasm about all things horror. Jade is over the top in the best possible way.

She’s gonna be there front-row, shoving popcorn in, maybe wearing a clear poncho and goggles against all the blood.

It took me about a chapter to get used to the writing style but, even as I was adjusting, I felt a great big hook pulling me along for the ride. I looked forward to Jade’s Slasher 101 essays, which made me want to sit down and have an extended discussion with her (and her creator).

To put it in conclusion, sir, final girls are the vessel we keep all our hope in. Bad guys don’t just die by themselves, I mean. Sometimes they need help in the form of a furie running at them, her mouth open in scream, her eyes white hot, her heart forever pure.

With one of the most bingeworthy list of movies ever included in a single novel, I’m convinced a movie night with the author needs to be on my bucket list.

“Want to go to a horror movie with me?”

This is my first Stephen Graham Jones read but this is only the beginning for me. I can’t wait to catch up on everything I’ve missed.

Content warnings include alcoholism, attempted suicide, self harm, and sexual assault.

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

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Jade is one class away from graduating high-school, but that’s one class she keeps failing local history. Dragged down by her past, her father and being an outsider, she’s composing her epic essay series to save her high-school diploma.

Jade’s topic? The unifying theory of slasher films. In her rapidly gentrifying rural lake town, Jade sees the pattern in recent events that only her encyclopaedic knowledge of horror cinema could have prepared her for. And with the arrival of the Final Girl, Letha Mondragon, she’s convinced an irreversible sequence of events has been set into motion.

As tourists start to go missing, and the tension grows between her community and the celebrity newcomers building their mansions the other side of the Indian Lake, Jade prepares for the killer to rise. She dives deep into the town’s history, the tragic deaths that occurred at camp years ago, the missing tourists no one is even sure exist, and the murders starting to happen, searching for the answer.

As the small and peaceful town heads towards catastrophe, it all must come to a head on 4th July, when the town all gathers on the water, where luxury yachts compete with canoes and inflatables, and the final showdown between rich and poor, past and present, townsfolk and celebrities slasher and Final Girl.