Novel Review: Coyote Rage by Owl Goingback

Summary: Bram Stoker Award-Winning author Owl Goingback makes a triumphant return to horror and fantasy in this gripping new novel. Coyote is on a murderous hunt, leaving behind a trail of carnage. The shape-shifter is determined to kill the human representatives to the Great Council in Galun’lati, eliminating the rule of mankind in the New World. But Raven has overheard the Trickster’s evil plan, and will do anything to protect Luther Watie and his daughter, Sarah Reynolds, even if it means turning his skin inside out. The forces of evil are aligning in two very different worlds. Can mankind be saved, or will creatures of fur and fangs once again reign supreme?

Content Warnings: Gore, Talk of Child Abuse, Body Horror, Mentions of Cannibalism, Slight Abuse of Disabled Man

Review: When I heard a horror novel about the trickster Coyote ended up winning a Stoker, I knew I had to get my hands on it. Besides my own studies in literature, my job as a teaching assistant, and my work on this blog, I also study folklore in my free time.

Trickster figures happen to be one of my favorite archetypes to study. They’re liminal figures, and they very often surprise you with what they’ll do. One minute, a trickster will steal you blind or even mutilate you. Another minute, they’ll be inventing musical instruments and teaching mankind agriculture. This complexity intrigues me, and it makes a great subject for a character.

Owl Goingback’s Coyote Rage is no exception. While I categorize this as a novel review for the purposes of the blog, Goingback’s latest novel reads more like an extraordinary literary fairy tale.

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Collection Review: Painted Monsters & Other Strange Beasts by Orrin Grey

Summary: ORRIN GREY LOVES MONSTERS. That is abundantly clear in the stories he spins. No matter where he draws inspiration from, whether the weird tales of Lovecraft, Machen, and Poe or the films of Murnau, Corman, and Argento, the end result is inevitably fresh and new. And wonderfully monstrous. If you love monsters—the macabre, the murderous, the misunderstood; the strange, the sinister, the sympathetic; the cinematic and the literary—you will find plenty to love in Orrin Grey’s Painted Monsters & Other Strange Beasts.

Content Warnings: Body Horror, Suicidal Idealization, Child Death

Review: Many months ago, I reviewed Orrin Grey’s nonfiction books. These wonderful collections of reviews and impressions of the horror cinema of yesteryear made the beginning of quarantine far less draining than it had to be. The Monsters from the Vault series are filled with a love of film, monsters, and the lifeblood of the horror genre. Considering this dedication to our beloved creatures, I knew I had to read Orrin Grey’s actual fiction. Surely his works carried the best parts of these influences in their bloodstream?

I’m happy to report that my expectations were exceeded. Orrin Grey’s short story collection, Painted Monsters & Other Strange Beasts, might be the best short story collection I read this year.

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Novella: To Be Devoured by Sara Tantlinger

Summary: What does carrion taste like? Andi has to know. The vultures circling outside her home taunt and invite her to come understand the secrets hiding in their banquet of decay. Fascination morphs into an obsessive need to know what the vultures know. Andi turns to Dr. Fawning, but even the therapist cannot help her comprehend the secrets she’s buried beneath anger-induced blackouts. Her girlfriend, Luna, tries to help Andi battle her inner darkness and infatuation with the vultures. However, the desire to taste dead flesh, to stitch together wings of her own and become one with the flock sends Andi down a twisted, unforgivable path. Once she understands the secrets the vultures conceal, she must decide between abandoning the birds of prey or risk turning her loved ones into nothing more than meals to be devoured.

Content Warnings: Gore, Mutilation, Cannibalism, Mental Breakdown, Animal Death, Ableism

Review: During my last review over Lisa Tuttle’s republished collection, I mentioned the difficulties of reviewing a book that I liked so much that gave me a lot of mixed feelings. Apparently, my horror-reading was determined to crash from that already terrible position to straight-up dislike.

To Be Devoured is a beautifully-written, small novella with a predictable plot filled with typical ableist attitudes towards mentally-ill people. This disappoints me because I was really looking forward to this book. Of all people, the lovely Gwendolyn Kiste recommended this novella to me.

Gwendolyn Kiste, author of The Rust Maidens! How could I avoid that recommendation? Beyond that recommendation, it’s a novella focusing upon a sapphic couple! An interracial sapphic couple! That’s so rare in horror books. How can I resist that?

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Collection Review: A Nest of Nightmares by Lisa Tuttle

Summary: In Lisa Tuttle’s stories, the everyday domestic world of her female protagonists is invaded by the bizarre, the uncanny, the horrific. In ‘Bug House’, a woman who goes to visit her aunt is shocked to find she is dying – but even more shocking is what is killing her. The divorcing couple in ‘Community Property’ arrive at a macabre solution for how to divide ownership of a beloved pet. In ‘Flying to Byzantium’, a writer travelling to a science fiction convention finds herself caught in a strange and terrifying hell. The thirteen tales in this collection are highly original and extremely chilling, and they reveal Tuttle to be a master of contemporary horror fiction.

Content Warnings: Rape, Mutilation, Body Horror, Gore, Child Death

WARNING! The following review contains spoilers for some of the short stories included in the collection.

Review: Lisa Tuttle has intrigued me from the moment I read her entry in Monster, She Wrote. It fascinates me that this feminist writer has written so much horror, yet she’s most famous for her collaboration with George R. R. Martin. I’m not exactly certain if Tuttle herself is glad that her claim to fame is founded upon her proximity to a very famous white guy, but I am glad that I was able to get my hands on a reprint of her short story collection that never published in the United States. 

Ultimately, A Nest of Nightmares gives me a view into a very talented and skilled writer, but my positive feelings are complicated by some of the dated outcomes of second-wave feminism. 

What do I mean when I say this? That’s a complex question, and the answer requires a deep dive into the stories themselves. 

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Novel Review: The Hollow Places by T. Kingfisher

Summary: Pray they are hungry. Kara finds the words in the mysterious bunker that she’s discovered behind a hole in the wall of her uncle’s house. Freshly divorced and living back at home, Kara now becomes obsessed with these cryptic words and starts exploring this peculiar area—only to discover that it holds portals to countless alternate realities. But these places are haunted by creatures that seem to hear thoughts…and the more one fears them, the stronger they become.

Content Warnings: Body Horror, Gore

Review: As I continue diving into the adult works of Ursula Vernon written under the pseudonym, T. Kingfisher, I become more and more enamored with this author’s worlds. No matter the genre, Vernon’s books are so wonderfully positive, hilarious, well-written, and full of a deep affection for the subject matter. Her books lure me in with this well-crafted optimism and affection and keep me there with a host of wonderful characters and engaging plots. 

Much like Vernon’s previous venture into horror, The Hollow Places continues this trend in my reading life. 

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Novel Review: Return of the Living by Jonathan Wojcik

Featured Image is credited to Jonathan Wojcik as part of the promo of his novel as seen on bogleech.com.

Summary: It’s been centuries since life ended on Earth, leaving only a haunted wasteland. So how could it be possible for one ghost to see a living being? Will she be able to convince her fellow specters that the living are back? Will she and her friends be able to avoid mysteriously disappearing like a growing number of spirits?

Content Warnings: Gore, Body Horror 

Review: Fellow horror fans might be familiar with a site I frequent every Halloween season, bogleech.com. Run by artist and webcomic creator Jonathan Wojcik, the website features not only fiction like Awful Hospital or his ttrpg concept, Mortasheen, but it happens to be the center of a four-month-long Halloween celebration. Starting on August 1st, Wojcik posts everything from artwork to articles to decoration reviews that revolve around all the spookiest features of our most beloved holiday. 

During this year’s Halloween celebration, Jonathan Wojcik announced that he published his first ever book. I, a fan of many years, immediately took notice. When I read the summary and premise behind the book, I knew I had to have it and review it for Halloween this year. 

So what, you may ask, is the premise? 

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(Nonfiction Review) Monsters in America: Our Historical Obsession with the Hideous and the Haunting by W. Scott Poole

Summary: Salem witches, frontier wilderness beasts, freak show oddities, alien invasions, Freddie Krueger. From our colonial past to the present, the monster in all its various forms has been a staple of American culture. A masterful survey of our grim and often disturbing past, Monsters in America uniquely brings together history and culture studies to expose the dark obsessions that have helped create our national identity.

Monsters are not just fears of the individual psyche, historian Scott Poole explains, but are concoctions of the public imagination, reactions to cultural influences, social change, and historical events. Conflicting anxieties about race, class, gender, sexuality, religious beliefs, science, and politics manifest as haunting beings among the populace. From Victorian-era mad scientists to modern-day serial killers, new monsters appear as American society evolves, paralleling fluctuating challenges to the cultural status quo. Consulting newspaper accounts, archival materials, personal papers, comic books, films, and oral histories, Poole adroitly illustrates how the creation of the monstrous “other” not only reflects society’s fears but shapes actual historical behavior and becomes a cultural reminder of inhuman acts.

Review: Earlier this year, I read Wasteland: The Great War and the Origins of Modern Horror by W. Scott Poole. The book impressed me with its great arguments, its deep dive into the inspirations of so many impressive artists and characters in the development of horror, and an honest look into the worst of World War I. Looking into the backlist of its author, historian W. Scott Poole, Monsters in America immediately struck me as the book to read next. 

My instincts ended up being completely correct. 

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Novella Review: Night of the Mannequins by Stephen Graham Jones

Summary: Stephen Graham Jones returns with Night of the Mannequins, a contemporary horror story where a teen prank goes very wrong and all hell breaks loose: is there a supernatural cause, a psychopath on the loose, or both?

Content Warnings: Underage Death, Gore

Review: Night of the Mannequins by Stephen Graham Jones is a very difficult book to review. That’s not because it’s bad. On the contrary, much like the previous Jones book I reviewed, this is an excellent work of fiction. It’s difficult to review because this book makes for a much better experience when you enter its pages knowing as little as possible. 

So how can I possibly explain what makes it so good without spoiling something for you all? I suppose I just have to try my best and hope I make no mistakes.

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Comics Review: The Low, Low Woods by Carmen Maria Machado

Disclaimer: I received an e-ARC from Netgalley and the publisher in exchange for a review. This free exchange does not impact my opinions on the quality of the product. 

Summary: When your memories are stolen, what would you give to remember? Follow El and Vee as they search for answers to the questions everyone else forgot. Shudder-to-Think, Pennsylvania, is plagued by a mysterious illness that eats away at the memories of those affected by it. El and Octavia are two best friends who find themselves the newest victims of this disease after waking up in a movie theater with no memory of the past few hours. As El and Vee dive deeper into the mystery behind their lost memories, they realize the stories of their town hold more dark truth than they could’ve imagined. It’s up to El and Vee to keep their town from falling apart…to keep the world safe from Shudder-to-Think’s monsters. Collects issues # 1-6.

Content Warnings: Frank Discussions and Depictions of Rape, Rape Culture, Pedophilia, Body Horror, Misogyny

Review: Recently, DC Comics released a line of horror comics called Hill House Comics. In this line, horror writer Joe Hill selects stories written by well-known horror authors for the comic medium. None of these stories have everything to do with the DC universe, but they’re supposed to show a wide array of talent in our spookiest genre. 

For my first foray in this line, I chose to read an ARC of The Low, Low Woods. Why? Because Carmen Maria Machado wrote it. After the sumptuous feasts that were Her Body and Other Parties and In The Dream House, I’ve decided Machado has to be an author to pursue. Her luscious prose and amazing ideas give me the greatest pleasure to read. If anybody is going to sell me on Hill House Comics, it’s her. 

Thankfully, she did. 

The Low, Low Woods is a comic full of my absolute favorite things: sapphic protagonists (one of whom is Latine like me), a small town with terrible secrets, a witch, monsters, mystery, and a good, thoughtful look into our society. 

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Classics Review: The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

Summary: Written in his distinctively dazzling manner, Oscar Wilde’s story of a fashionable young man who sells his soul for eternal youth and beauty is the author’s most popular work. The tale of Dorian Gray’s moral disintegration caused a scandal when it first appeared in 1890, but though Wilde was attacked for the novel’s corrupting influence, he responded that there is, in fact, “a terrible moral in Dorian Gray.” Just a few years later, the book and the aesthetic/moral dilemma it presented became issues in the trials occasioned by Wilde’s homosexual liaisons, which resulted in his imprisonment. Of Dorian Gray’s relationship to autobiography, Wilde noted in a letter, “Basil Hallward is what I think I am: Lord Henry what the world thinks me: Dorian what I would like to be—in other ages, perhaps.”

Content Warnings: Period-typical Sexism, Antisemitism, Drug Addiction, Mild Body Horror

Review: Like many other classics in the horror genre, Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray has fully seeped into the public consciousness through pop culture osmosis. Everybody knows the tale by now. A young man wishes that his portrait would age instead of him before being persuaded into a lifestyle of hedonism that spirals out of control. Even I knew the story before I decided to plunge into its pages.

When it comes to horror classics as well known as Oscar Wilde’s only novel, the question becomes, “Does this live up to the hype? Does it succeed in the telling?”

Well, after two sit-downs with the small novel, I’m happy to report that it does.

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