Collection Review: Kowabana Vol. 1 translated by Tara A. Devlin

Summary: Kowabana: ‘True’ Japanese scary stories from around the internet is a collection of anonymous horror tales collected and translated from the occult forum on the Japanese website ‘2chan’ and originally published on my website Presented as true stories that really happened to the author these are tales of Japanese ghosts, murder, suicide, revenge, cursed objects and other strange happenings. These are comparable to the Western phenomenon of the ‘creepypasta’ but with a Japanese twist.

In this book you’ll find 111 translated stories set across Japan. From the rice fields of the countryside to cramped apartments in big cities, public toilets and old abandoned buildings, shrines in the middle of nowhere and crowded trains full of perhaps not just people, here you’ll find horror unique to Japan and in a way only they know how to do.

Trigger Warnings: Mention of Pedophilia, Suicide, Suicidal Idealization, Body Horror

Review: Creepypasta is an interesting subgenre not only of horror but of the campfire story. It’s inherently tied to the internet, usually kept anonymous, and usually told in a direct manner. Taken at face value, a good creepypasta story scares the reader without making them question the plausibility of the story.

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Novel Review: The Gilda Stories by Jewelle Gomez

Summary: This remarkable novel begins in 1850s Louisiana, where Gilda escapes slavery and learns about freedom while working in a brothel. After being initiated into eternal life as one who “shares the blood” by two women there, Gilda spends the next two hundred years searching for a place to call home. An instant lesbian classic when it was first published in 1991, The Gilda Stories has endured as an auspiciously prescient book in its explorations of blackness, radical ecology, re-definitions of family, and yes, the erotic potential of the vampire story.

Trigger Warnings: Attempted Rape, Domestic Abuse, Racism, Racial Slurs (mostly mild)

Review: Although I call it a novel in the title, Jewelle Gomez’s queer classic reads more like a collection of short stories. Despite the omnipresent narrator of each story, Gilda, our bisexual Black heroine, remains the central focus of the book, a character both explored in all her complexities and who explores the opportunities and complexities of the human existence.

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Opinion: Criticism Will Never Be Censorship

Today, on the book blogging site Ink Heist, horror author Karen Runge wrote a piece concerning censorship called The Frankenstein Effect. In the essay, Runge compares the old, popular misconception of Frankenstein being the monster rather than the Doctor to the general public’s misunderstandings of horror media. The author then claims that these misunderstandings and preconceptions lead to the general censorship of horror, especially the Extreme Horror she enjoys writing.

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Novel Review: Parasite Life by Victoria Dalpe

Summary: Life in small-town America is hard for Jane. On top of the usual teenage troubles with peers and homework and boredom, Jane lives alone in a strange old house with her invalid mother. Her mother has been near catatonic for years, afflicted by some strange wasting disease. It’s only Jane who keeps her alive, day in and day out. Day in and day out. Day in and Day out.
But then one day everything changes. A new girl shows up in school. Her name is Sabrina and she sees something in Jane that she doesn’t even see in herself.
Their friendship will push Jane to unearth the mysteries of her mother’s past and the dark history of her missing father. Forced to face a monstrous lineage, Jane will have to make decisions about just who and what she wants to be.

Book Trigger Warnings: Suicide Attempt, Suicidal Idealization, Child Abuse, Sexual Assault, Abusive Relationships

Review: LGBTQ+ representation in speculative fiction, with several noteworthy exceptions, tends to be sparse and underpromoted. Even then, when it comes to queer characters, they tend to be written with several harmful tropes. The Sissy Male Villain. Bury Your Gays. The Predatory Lesbian. The Promiscuous Bisexual. The Inhuman Asexual.

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Poetry Review: HWA Poetry Showcase Volume V

Summary: The fifth volume of HWA’s acclaimed annual poetry anthology features dark verse by Donna Lynch, R. J. Joseph, Sara Tantlinger, and many more.

Review: Unlike mainstream literary venues, where you hear constant news stories of the rise of poetry thanks to new venues, mediums, and influences, speculative fiction treats poetry like a neglected stepchild forced to clean up the ashes. I find this incredibly sad because poetry is amazing. It’s a form that takes advantage of language and its effects to create a mesmerizing experience for its readers. It can illustrate anything from a story to a mood, a memory from your life or the vignette of another world no one else could possibly imagine.

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Short Story Collection Review: She Said Destroy by Nadia Bulkin

Summary: A dictator craves love–and horrifying sacrifice–from his subjects; a mother raised in a decaying warren fights to reclaim her stolen daughter; a ghost haunts a luxury hotel in a bloodstained land; a new babysitter uncovers a family curse; a final girl confronts a broken-winged monster…

Word Horde presents the debut collection from critically-acclaimed Weird Fiction author Nadia Bulkin. Dreamlike, poignant, and unabashedly socio-political, She Said Destroy includes three stories nominated for the Shirley Jackson Award, four included in Year’s Best anthologies, and one original tale.

Review: Let’s get any fears out of the way: She Said Destroy is easily a contender for the best horror I’ve read this year. It’s only January. That should tell you everything you need to know.

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Novel Review: Clickers by J.F. Gonzalez and Mark Williams

Summary: Phillipsport, Maine is a quaint and peaceful seaside village. But when hundreds of creatures pour out of the ocean and attack, its residents must take up arms to drive the beasts back. They are the Clickers, giant venomous blood-thirsty crabs from the depths of the sea. The only warning to their rampage of dismemberment and death is the terrible clicking of their claws. But these monsters aren’t merely here to ravage and pillage. They are being driven onto land by fear. Something is hunting the Clickers. Something ancient and without mercy.

Review: Surprisingly, it is incredibly difficult to find a Creature Feature book that doesn’t involve the exploitation of marginalized groups. My first foray into the genre, Hunter Shea’s The Jersey Devil, enraged me so much with its gratuitous rape, terrible treatment of women, and just general concepts that I threw that sucker behind my television and never looked at it since.

Does Clickers, a throwback to B movies and bloody gorefests like James Herbert’s Rats, fall into the same traps?

Continue reading “Novel Review: Clickers by J.F. Gonzalez and Mark Williams”

Collection Review: The Girl With No Hands and Other Tales by Angela Slatter

Summary: In this dark fantasy and horror short story collection, Angela Slatter focuses on a mix of original content and fairy tale retellings with her own spin. Featuring takes on “Bluebeard,” “Donkeyskin,” and “The Armless Maiden” along with stories featuring old-school zombies and a living book, The Girl With No Hands and Other Tales presents a good overview of the writer’s interests and themes.

Disclaimer: This review features mentions and descriptions of racism, rape, sexual assault, incest, and necrophilia. Be prepared when reading.

Review: When looking up Angela Slatter’s backlist, I had to pick this book. Look at those contents. Fairy tales? Zombies? Takes on domestic abuse and patriarchy? It hit so many soft spots and perfect themes that I figured this one was going to be a bang. A definite five-star experience.

Unfortunately, I have come out of this experience feeling mixed on the literary results and, frankly, a little grossed out.

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Novel Review: Seed by Ania Ahlborn

Summary: With nothing but the clothes on his back—and something horrific snapping at his heels—Jack Winter fled his rural Georgia home when he was still just a boy. Watching the world he knew vanish in a trucker’s rearview mirror, he thought he was leaving an unspeakable nightmare behind forever. But years later, the bright new future he’s built suddenly turns pitch black, as something fiendishly familiar looms dead ahead.

When Jack, his wife Aimee, and their two small children survive a violent car crash, it seems like a miracle. But Jack knows what he saw on the road that night, and it wasn’t divine intervention. The profound evil from his past won’t let them die…at least not quickly. It’s back, and it’s hungry; ready to make Jack pay for running, to work its malignant magic on his angelic youngest daughter, and to whisper a chilling promise: I’ve always been here, and I’ll never leave.

Review: First novels can be difficult to review. Some debuts are genius, a work of such maturity and craft that reviewers can hardly believe it’s their first work. Ania Ahlborn’s debut, Seed, is not one of them.  Continue reading “Novel Review: Seed by Ania Ahlborn”

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