Book Review: Chasing Ghosts by Glenn Rolfe


Chasing Ghosts

By Glenn Rolfe

Published by Sinister Grin Press, August 1, 2016

4 Stars

One of my earliest guilty pleasure movies was Wrong Turn. I was obsessed with the backwoods creatures that knew no moral boundaries, who seemed to exist solely to inflict pain and eat other humans. This premise is ruthlessly terrifying, and I found myself, years later, equally frightened by Glenn Rolfe’s take on this vicious plot in his novella, Chasing Ghosts.

For such a short book, Rolfe is able to pack an immense amount of characters into the main plot—and not just filler, but characters you actually feel for. He opens with a ghost hunt gone wrong, where a group of young boys stumble into a dangerous family of monstrous humans. It then fast forwards a bit, following a punk band and their mistake to agree to play a show in the secluded woods. We are treated to a slasher-esque pacing of characters being picked off one by one, and as quickly as the blood-spilling and mayhem begins, it continues until the stories bittersweet end.

This book is brutal. It is relentless. The thrill moves at a breakneck speed. Rolfe depicts violence in such an empathetic, yet over the top way, that you find yourself cringing involuntarily when the action ramps up. There are few details spared to really bring that 80s horror vibe home. I could easily picture what was going on at every turn, as Rolfe’s writing has a very cinematic quality to it. Each page splashes across your imagination vividly, a feat that is not often achievable at this consistency.

While this is a book that I will remember because of its hard-hitting gore and horror, the amount of emotional work done in this book does not go unnoticed. The relationships between characters are well-established in a short period of time and still find space to develop in interesting, interconnected ways. This makes the pain felt by characters resound even louder as it’s felt by the characters close to them as well. Rolfe does what a lot of modern-day slashers can’t—makes you care if the characters live or die.

There were few things I was less enthusiastic about with this book. One, however, is that the title, combined with the summary, makes you feel like you are going to read something very different than what you get in the book. I was a bit confused when the focus of the book started to become clearer, but still, far from disappointed. The other small issue I had was with the late introduction of the law enforcement characters, who felt slightly forced into the fray. It would have been interesting to see them developed more throughout the story. I gladly would have read another hundred pages in this world!

All in all Rolfe’s Chasing Ghosts was a true treat to read in the dark, covers pulled tight. I’m looking forward to reading more in Rolfe’s catalog, as he clearly has an eye for horror and pulls off one of the more disturbing reads I’ve come across.

(Disclaimer: Review copy received from publisher. Thank you!)

Book Review: Bones by Andrew Cull



By Andrew Cull

Published by Vermillion2One Press, 2018

4.5 Stars

I find myself increasingly drawn to short horror fiction. Much like horror movies, horror is often best delivered in small chunks. Enough time to get into a story, develop characters so that you care what happens to them, deliver the punch, and draw it to an end. In other words, a little goes a long way. Andrew Cull’s Bones takes the short story format, and delivers several packed tales in his book centered on monsters and the different forms they can take. We run the gamut from human monsters, to ghosts, to other strange happenings in this book, and each story truly sings all the right notes.

The first story, “Did You Forget About Me?”, packs a powerful punch of estranged family, trauma, growth, and all with a touch of ghosts. This story was truly haunting in terms of long-term repercussions of neglect and family strain. I think, out of the stories, this was the one that grabbed me the least, but, considering the caliber of all of these stories, that’s hardly a knock. The true strength of this story lies in the world created by thick spooky ambiance. At the end of the day, this is a haunted house story that I could truly visualize, creating chills in response to unnerving atmosphere.

“Hope and Walker” was an incredibly unique story. There is a deeply unsettling cadence with which this story is written. I found this short to be one of the scariest because it was able to carefully intertwine real-life horror, the monsters that people can be, with supernatural elements. Cull did a commendable job of really making you see through the eyes, in an emotional sense, with the main character.

The third story “The Trade” was perhaps the bleakest of the bunch. It feels like creature feature meets rituals gone awry. The entire story was horrifically tense, weaving action throughout. Cull writes with such a vivid sense reality that you can almost smell the blood and viscera that permeates this story. I may have connected to these characters the least, but that didn’t mitigate the fear felt while reading this short.

Finally, my favorite story of the group, Cull finishes strong with “Knock and You Will See Me”. This story follows a family who has recently buried a loved one, with a mother at the head of the family trying to protect her children. She begins to receive messages from beyond the grave, seemingly from her recently deceased father. With her sanity in doubt, her children in danger, and the disturbing thought that her father might actually be alive, the story unravels in a spectacularly stressful and panic-inducing manner. Cull’s final featured tale hits you hard where it hurts, ending with heart-palpitating revelations.

Cull has made a powerful debut with Bones. His ability to craft gripping first sentences followed by mesmerizing tales of monsters of all shapes and sizes speaks volumes to his versatility and craft. He’s able to write from multiple perspectives and walks of life, with a tirade of horror themes, and this will surely aid him in his future writing ventures to keep the formula from getting stale.

Disclaimer: Review copy received from author. Thank you!

Book Review: Kill Hill Carnage by Tim Meyer


Kill Hill Carnage

By Tim Meyer

Published by Sinister Grin Press, July 15 2018

4.5 Stars (Rounded up)

A few pages into Kill Hill Carnage by Tim Meyer, published by Sinister Grin Press, I knew I was holding one of my favorite horror books to be released this year. I was in the mood for something gory, lively, with a little humor and a lot of heart, and I found that in this book and so much more.

Kill Hill Carnage draws from the splattery depths of 80s horror, with creature and mad scientist throwbacks, campground massacres, and classic tale of “group of friends go into the woods and get more than they bargained for”. At face value, that’s enough fun to keep your attention through this novel. However, Meyer, with a knack for writing witty dialogue and palpable action, brings these fun tropes into a league of their own.

The plot of this book is thoroughly amusing, requiring page turn after page turn with an inability to be put down. The story travels non-linear paths, describing the monster-led massacre of a camp decades earlier, switching back and forth to the current-day group of young adults seeking thrills in those same woods. At no point did I feel lost in the story, each timeline and character perspective serving to push the story along at relatively breakneck speed.

One of the aspects I enjoyed most from Kill Hill Carnage was that there was a dynamic range of characters in the story. Meyer created realistic, interesting, and complex characters in the group of friends who are at the heart of this story—Jenna, Seth, Fiona, Dave, and Warren. While this group of friends are tied together in a twisty web of bffs, partners, wannabe-lovers, and acquaintances, Meyer does well to illuminate relationships in compelling directions. The other characters in the story—rough and gruff Frank and the scientists of Kill Hill allow for additional character development in well-written personalities. In addition to the solid cast at the center of the story, Meyer treats the reader to plenty of fodder to live up to the titular carnage.

Speaking of slaughter, while Meyer’s is talented in his ability to portray likable (and appropriately unlikable) characters with fun and often humorous dialogue, his ability to make me feel a little ill is to be equally lauded. Kill Hill Carnage was wrought with gore and the grimace-inducing action that causes it. This book is sharp in its descriptions of mayhem, with tense, gooey moments to fill the gaps between action as well.

I could go on and on about how this book is something close to a perfect read, but instead, I’m going to go light a candle and wish to the splatterpunk gods for a sequel.

(Disclaimer: Review copy received from publisher. Thank you!)


Book Review: New Fears edited by Mark Morris


New Fears
Edited By Mark Morris
Published by Titan Books, 2017
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Reading anthologies is a lot like eating a bag of Starbursts. You know your favorite flavors, and you resist eating those first. There’re some less savory flavors, but you eat them anyway because the experience is short, and, ultimately, it’s serving to satisfy your sweet tooth. And, if it this bag of candy is anything like New Fears, edited by Mark Morris with some of the best names in modern horror, you’re going to feel a little sick to your stomach after consuming it all.

New Fears is a unique anthology in that its purpose is not to be centered around a specific theme, per se, but rather to collect a set of stories to give you new things to be frightened about. And, for all intents and purposes, this anthology accomplishes its goals. The stories range from folkloric tales of mischievous creatures, to child abductions by way of obscured hell dimensions, to the realistic horror of mass shootings. Each author has a unique voice that brings these new terrors to the table, some with comedic tinges, some with full blown horror straight in your face. The diverse themes, perspectives, and tone of this anthology make it a true delight to read.

I enjoyed a majority of the stories in this book. “The Boggle Hole” by Alison Littlewood opens this anthology and brought me back to my days of binging Are You Afraid of the Dark as a child (and, let’s face it, an adult as well). The whimsical tone of this story made the unnerving nature of the story even more exciting to read. A few other standouts include Stephen Gallagher’s “Shepherd’s Business”, a truly disturbing story that sticks with you long after you finish the final sentences. “Dollies” by Kathryn Ptacek was chilling in its innocence; Christopher Golden’s “The Abduction Door” has a horrifying cinematic quality to it. And still, though many of these stories creep into your mind, grabbing hold tight and notching up your paranoia, others imbued humor to provide levity between haunts. I’m looking at you “The Embarrassment of Dead Grandmothers” by Sarah Lotz, the funniest (yet still dark) story in this book.

There were a few stories that I did not enjoy as much as others, but that’s to be expected in an anthology, especially one like this with such a wide variety of authors, themes, and tones. The stories that were less memorable tended to end ambiguously, without identifying the “fear” as concretely as in other stories. Still though, even these stories were successful in creating an atmosphere as dread, and none halted the procession of the book.

This anthology is one of the best I’ve read so far. Mark Morris has compiled a hard-hitting, fun, and terrifying anthology with New Fears. The authors included in this collection are some of the greatest voices of horror we have. This was a great way to learn about new wonderful authors, including many female horror writers I’m excited to follow. I highly recommend this book to genre fans, and I cannot wait to read the second installment coming later this year.BookReviewTemplate