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.


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. 

D is for Drool – Amanda Noll & Shari Dash Greenspan

Illustrations – Howard McWilliam

I love alphabet books and bedtime stories, and this book is both. I wish I’d learned the alphabet this way. There’s no boring A is for Apples in this book; A is for Arms, enough that you will need to use all of your fingers to count them.

I would have giggled my way through this book as a kid and would have had fun calling out what each letter is for. The monsters aren’t scary at all; they’re actually quite adorable. Howard McWilliam’s illustrations pop with colour and all of the monsters are expressive.

I enjoyed the continuity throughout the book. When you turn the page you get to see the tail end of the monster from the page before. Oftentimes you’ll see snow or ooze on subsequent pages from the more messy monsters.


I loved the baby Jaws making a snow angel but my favourite monster was the one with green pigtails and pink tutu.


Howard McWilliam’s alphabet is amazing. Not only does each letter match the colour scheme of each letter’s monster, many of their attributes are also represented.


I would love to see a special edition of this book that includes an alphabet wall border. It needs to be on my wall.

I definitely need to get my hands on the I Need My Monster series.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Flashlight Press for the opportunity to read this picture book.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

When Ethan can’t sleep, he doesn’t count sheep – he says his ABCs. But in monster-loving Ethan’s alphabet, A is for Arms, B is for Belly, C is for Claws, and D is for Drool! 

Kids will love pointing out the alphabetical attributes on the silly monsters that parade across Ethan’s room – like earlobes, noses, spikes, and wings – and discovering where all of those monsters are headed. 

By the time Ethan gets to Y, he’s Yawning. And by Z, kids will be ready to sleep as Ethan does, surrounded by the tails, tentacles, and drool sticking out from under his bed. ZZzzzzz

D is for Drool is a monstrously magnificent ABC book that offers a new way to fall asleep. With the perfect balance of giggles and shivers, it is a captivating companion to the award-winning I Need My Monster series.

Alphonse, There’s Mud on the Ceiling! – Daisy Hirst

This is my first Natalie and Alphonse read. It’s the third in a series about monster siblings who live on the seventh floor of an apartment building. Although they’re good at entertaining themselves, sometimes there just isn’t enough space for them to play and some of their games are messy.

They want to go camping but they don’t have a backyard. They spend some time exploring in the local park.


Then the siblings use their imagination to come up with a way to sleep in a tent in the jungle without needing a backyard. The siblings’ creativity and adaptability allow them to come up with a solution to a problem.

I don’t think I’d be as laidback as their father was about the huge mess they made in the apartment. If they were my little monsters I’d be making sure they’d cleaned up after themselves before they got to have an adventure in the park. Although, perhaps father monster just wanted them to use up some of their excess energy …


The illustrations are colourful and cute, although I prefer children’s books with more detailed pictures. I liked the book’s message but I don’t think I’d want to read it again.

Thank you to NetGalley and Candlewick Press for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Lovably rambunctious monster siblings Natalie and Alphonse are excited to go camping in the wilds of nature – without leaving their apartment.

Most of the time, Natalie and Alphonse like living in an apartment on the seventh floor. They have bunk beds to drive, a big green chair to hide behind and yell “Raaaar!”, sunflowers on the balcony to water, and almost enough hallway space for tumbling. But when they pretend to be wiggly worms crawling across the jungle … SHFLWUMP! Ow! That is not a good game for indoors! How can they explore the joys of nature in the middle of the city? In a playful ode to cooperation and imagination, award-winning picture-book creator Daisy Hirst presents a third adventure starring two relatable – and resourceful – siblings.

There’s a Monster in Your Book – Tom Fletcher

Illustrations – Greg Abbott

I enjoyed There’s a Dragon in Your Book more than this one, probably in part because I discovered it first and, well, she was a cute baby dragon! The monster in this book is cute too and I loved that this book was also interactive. I’m partial to monsters though so I wasn’t overly clear on why we didn’t want him in our book. I would prefer to help a baby dragon than scare a monster.

Nevertheless, I tried to shake him out, tickle his feet and blow him away. I admit I felt bad for the little guy when he became dizzy and scared, but it all works out in the end. Kids will enjoy the funny expressions on the monster’s face as he’s spun, wiggled and tilted all over the pages.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Bestselling author of The Christmasuarus, Tom Fletcher, has written a brand new picture book perfect for bedtime, where a mischievous monster has invaded the pages of your child’s book!

This read-aloud, interactive picture book treat invites children to make magic happen page by page, tilting, spinning and shaking the book, and then seeing the funny results when each page is turned. A fantastic celebration of all the fun that can be had with a book, with a wonderful wind-down bedtime ending!

How to Catch a Monster – Adam Wallace

Illustrations – Andy Elkerton

Spoilers Ahead!

The illustrations are brilliant in How to Catch a Monster, AKA, Confronting Your Fears and Discovering They’re Not as Scary as You Thought. Okay, so I wasn’t consulted during the naming of this book, thank goodness! So, the illustrations. They’re bright, colourful, detailed, kind of quirky and very engaging. I loved them!

The illustrations are brilliant in How to Catch a Monster, AKA, Confronting Your Fears and Discovering They’re Not as Scary as You Thought. Okay, so I wasn’t consulted during the naming of this book, thank goodness! So, the illustrations. They’re bright, colourful, detailed, kind of quirky and very engaging. I loved them!

The story is told in rhymes. Our main character has secured the role of ninja master in the school play so they’re feeling brave. Dressed in full ninja garb and with a backpack filled to the brim with tricks and traps, hero ninja kid (whose gender is never identified and I love this!) sets off to confront their monster. Yep, it’s a literal monster that hides in their closet.

Instead of finding something that belongs in your nightmares, hero ninja kid not only overcomes their fear but makes a new friend. Aww! There’s even some fart humour with a surprise as our monster’s farts smell like strawberries and lime.

My favourite element was the wind up shark that came out of the backpack of tricks but this is me we’re talking about. It was always going to be the shark. 🦈 😊

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

There’s a monster in my closet, 
with claws, and teeth, and hair, 
and tonight, I’m going to scare him!
He lives just right through there …

Get ready to laugh as a young ninja heads into the closet to meet the monster that’s been so scary night after night! But what if things aren’t what they seem and our monster isn’t scary at all? What if our ninja hero is about to make a friend of strangest sort?

If you dare to travel beyond the closet door and into the land of the monsters … you might just find the very best reward of all. But with robots, lava pie, and a smattering of traps – catching monsters is no easy business!

Is there a monster living in your closet? Are you brave enough to catch him? Parents and children will love sharing this fun and inventive picture book, which reminds us that things aren’t always as scary as they seem. 

There’s a Monster in My Fridge – Caryl Hart

Illustrations – Deborah Allright

This is such a fun and quirky book! Not only is there a monster in the fridge but there are all sorts of weird and wonderful creatures to find, including a vampire who’s wearing underwear with bats on it! There are split pages so you’re asked what’s behind the door or under the sheets or in the bath as you make your way through this spooky house and on the other side of the split page, all is revealed.

At the beginning of the book a hairy hand holding a sign for a party pops out of a top hat which is walking on skinny legs. You follow the top hat creature through the book until the surprise ending behind the secret door.

The illustrations are everything in There’s a Monster in My Fridge, with so much wonderful use of colour and so many things to look at. Each page is full of detail and practically everything has a face, from the cutlery to the hairbrush.

While I loved all of the illustrations there were certain elements that tickled my fancy, like the dancing toast, the green monster riding an electric beater with a colander on its head (safety first!) and the witch on roller skates. I need to read this again!

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

There are monsters hiding everywhere, with pointy teeth and tangly hair! Can you find them? Dare you look, between the pages of this book? 

Monsters, monsters, everywhere – but not as scary as you think! Every room in this house has a monster hiding behind a fun split page. But are you brave enough to peek behind – and are you ready for what you find? Each turn of the page in this book is filled with delightfully charming monsters who just happen to be doing super silly things.

Who knew that monsters crave raspberry jelly? Or that witches love glitter glue? There are lots of funny, giggle-worthy revelations for children, including one at the very end that puts them right in the middle of the action.