ASYLUM by Madeleine Roux

September 22, 2015
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Dan Crawford couldn’t be more excited to have been accepted to the New Hampshire College College Prep Program. Not only does this mean his first taste of college and the real world, it means a summer away from his parents. Freedom.

Dan arrives on campus to find that his dorm is actually an old asylum, something that at first intrigues. But that’s before the strange things start to happen. A student is killed and Dan begins having bouts of missing time and that’s only the start. As the tension increases on campus, Dan and his friends explore more of the old Brookline Asylum in an attempt to unravel the mystery. What they find is truly terrifying and could mean certain danger for each and every student in the program.

Using “vintage” images in the style of Ransom Riggs’s Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, Roux builds a chilling and intriguing tale filled with ominous locked rooms, hints of strange experiments and dark insane asylum history, and an uber creepy serial killer who may just have returned from the past to hunt down and murder teens.

In other words, Asylum is super fun.

9/15 Becky LeJeune

ASYLUM by Madeleine Roux. HarperCollins; Reprint edition (August 26, 2014).  ISBN 978-0062220974.  336p.

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THE BEST HORROR OF THE YEAR, ed. by Ellen Datlow

September 5, 2015
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Volume 7

Once again Ellen Datlow has culled through the past year’s mass of horror shorts and novellas to put together a collection of some of the best highlights for genre fans.

Datlow not only has great taste, but with these “best of” anthologies she’s essentially offering readers a snapshot of the year’s releases. The chosen tales are narrowed down from multi-author anthologies, single author collections, magazines, online publications, and any other place that might have featured horror shorts for the previous year. What’s more, Datlow also takes the time to list additional readings of note including shorts that didn’t quite make the cut (because there are such a plethora to have to choose from), genre novels, award winners, etc from the calendar year.

This year’s twenty-two tale selection runs the gamut of horror with tales inspired by Lovecraft (Brian Evenson’s “Past Reno” and Livia Llewellyn’s “Allochton” were both originally part of the Letters to Lovecraft anthology edited by Jesse Bullington), a sin eater (Genevieve Valentine’s “A Dweller in Amenty”), vengeance from beyond the grave (Laird Barron’s “The Worms Crawl In”), and of course a couple of tales of the apocalypse as well, just to mention a few.

Some of my own favorites this time around include Garth Nix’s “Shay Corsham Worsted” and Keris McDonald’s “The Coat Off His Back,” both of which center around some quite historic criminals, the abovementioned “Past Reno,” and Angela Slatter’s revenge tale “Winter Children.”

Here’s the full table of contents:

The Atlas of Hell by Nathan Ballingrud

Winter Children by Angela Slatter

A Dweller in Amenty by Genevieve Valentine

Outside Heavenly by Rio Youers

Shay Corsham Worsted by Garth Nix

Allochton by Livia Llewllyn

Chapter Six by Stephen Graham Jones

This is Not for You by Gemma Files

Interstate Love Song (Murder Ballad No. 8) by Caitlin R. Kiernan

The Culvert by Dale Bailey

Past Reno by Brian Evenson

The Coat off His Back by Keris McDonald

The Worms Crawl In by Laird Barron

The Dog’s Home by Alison Littlewood

Tread Upon the Brittle Shell by Rhoads Brazos

Persistence of Vision by Orrin Grey

It Flows From the Mouth by Robert Shearman

Wingless Beasts by Lucy Taylor

Departures by Carole Johnstone

Ymir by John Langan

Plink by Kurt Dinan

Nigredo by Cody Goodfellow

 

9/15 Becky LeJeune

THE BEST HORROR OF THE YEAR 7, ed. by Ellen Datlow. Night Shade Books (August 18, 2015).  ISBN 978-1597808293.  368p.

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LITTLE GIRLS by Ronald Malfi

August 16, 2015
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Laurie’s father has died and so, with her husband, Ted, and daughter, Susan, in tow, she has returned to the childhood home she left behind so many years ago to settle the estate and hopefully put the house on the market. Laurie has reservations about staying in the house, it’s never been a happy place for her and now there’s the added fact that her father didn’t just die there but actually committed suicide by jumping out of the belvedere window.

Ted and Susan are instantly smitten with the old place, though, and convince her otherwise. It’s only for a little while, after all,  and it’ll mean time for Ted to work on his latest play. Susan has even found a friend in the girl next door. But the house holds bad memories for Laurie and the girl next door reminds her just a little too much of a girl who lived there when she was a child. A horrid girl who died on Laurie’s father’s property decades ago.

Even if Laurie and her family were a unified unit, which we soon learn they may not be, the house is enough to begin tearing away at them. Laurie is plagued by memories of her childhood, the girl next door is creepy as all get out, and there are clues around the house that maybe her father was suffering from more than just dementia. It all starts to make Laurie – and even Ted – wonder about her sanity.

Ronald Malfi’s latest is a pretty classic take on the haunted house tale: a creepy old house, inexplicable noises, a mysterious locked room… And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. In fact, Little Girls is a solid and scary tale with more than a few twists – some a little more expected than others. It’s utterly satisfying and maybe a little nightmare inducing as well.

8/15 Becky LeJeune

LITTLE GIRLS by Ronald Malfi. Kensington (June 30, 2015).  ISBN 978-1617736063.  384p.


LOVE IS RED by Sophie Jaff

August 14, 2015
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The Nightsong Trilogy (Book 1)

It’s summertime in New York and the city is plagued by more than just hot weather. The Sickle Man stalks the streets, killing women in their own homes. Though this does mean a certain extra level of caution, it doesn’t mean that Katherine Emerson has given up on  the dating scene and finding Mr. Right. In fact, she’s recently met two men who could fit the bill.

What Katherine doesn’t know is that the Sickle Man already has her in his sights. In fact, he’s been looking for her for quite some time and now that he’s found her, her death is his ultimate goal.

Love is Red is a book that almost defies every attempt to sum it up in a nutshell. First, there’s the fear of giving too much away. Second, it’s truly standout and somewhat unconventional. It’s a cross-genre thriller, one that includes supernatural elements, romance elements, and mystery elements. As such, unless you really shy away from dark reads (because it is quite dark) there is something for just about every kind of reader here.

The story alternates between Katherine and The Sickle Man himself. Jaff plays with the style of the narrative quite a bit with The Sickle Man’s chapters told from a second person perspective and by adding in therapy Q&As, internal monologues, and other different aspects in Katherine’s narrative as well. This ratchets up the suspense quite a bit while also giving the reader a more unique experience.

Honestly, this is one of my absolute favorite reads of the year. It’s also the first in a trilogy and there is a pretty massive cliffhanger of an ending. Of course that means that I’m waiting, along with everyone else who’s so far enjoyed the book, with baited breath to see what will happen next.

8/15 Becky LeJeune

LOVE IS RED by Sophie Jaff.  Harper (May 12, 2015).  ISBN 978-0062346261.  384p.


THE BLUMHOUSE BOOK OF NIGHTMARES ed. by Jason Blum

July 18, 2015
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THE HAUNTED CITY

Horror fans, have you ever wondered what happens when some of the bigwigs in the industry get together and pen a collection of short stories? Apparently someone has and the result is the new Blumhouse Book of Nightmares release. The theme is “The City” and the only stipulation was that the contributors had to write something that fit within the theme. Beyond that, the stories vary wildly. From haunted houses and gypsy curses to Nazis and demon hunters, these tales run the gamut of horror.

The contributors themselves are people whose work you already know even if you don’t know them by name – authors like Sarah Langan and Michael Olson, actors like Ethan Hawke and Jeremy Slater, and the minds behind Sinister, The Lazarus Effect, Hostel and more – and of course they’re all brought together by Jason Blum and Blumhouse.

The overall collection is quite fun. A few of my own personal favorites include Leslie Bohem’s “Geist” an excellent ghost story in my opinion, Eli Roth’s twisted revenge tale “Valdivia,” and Simon Kurt Unsworth’s eerie “Gentholme.”

Table of Contents:

Hellhole by Christopher Denham
Valdivia by Eli Roth
Golden Hour by Jeremy Slater
A Clean White Room by Scott Derrickson & C. Robert Cargill
The Leap by Dana Stevens
Novel Fifteen by Steve Faber
The Darkish Man by Nissar Medi
1987 by Ethan Hawke
Geist by Leslie Bohem
Gentholme by Simon Kurt Unsworth
Donations by William Joselyn
The Old Jail by Sarah Langan
The Words by Scott Stewart
Dreamland by Michael Olson
Meat Maker by Mark Neveldine
Eyes by George Gallo
Procedure by James DeMonaco

7/15 Becky LeJeune

THE BLUMHOUSE BOOK OF NIGHTMARES ed. by Jason Blum. Doubleday (July 7, 2015).  ISBN 978-0385539999. 384p.


THE MALL by S.L. Grey

July 16, 2015
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Rhoda left the kid alone for just a few minutes and now he’s gone. Sure, she shouldn’t have taken him to the mall in the first place. But she needed a score and she was only watching the kid as a favor for her cousin. Given her appearance and attitude, mall security isn’t taking her seriously in her search for a white kid, but she knows the guy at the bookstore saw them together and lied about it.

Dan only caught a glimpse of the kid running through the mall tunnels, but it isn’t until Rhoda attacks him in the parking garage that he puts two and two together. Now he’s basically a hostage leading her through the warren of back halls and stairwells after hours in search of the boy. As they wind their way down and down and down, though, Dan realizes that they’re lost. The place still looks like Highgate, but everything looks just a little off. What’s worse, now Dan and Rhoda are getting weird texts from someone who calls themselves management and a large and foul smelling creature seems to be tailing them on their journey.

A parallel world where stores are run by mindless slaves and shoppers literally shop until they drop, The Mall is seriously fun and creepy. The book does essentially poke fun at retail culture, and much of the book has a tinge of dark humor to it, but the deeper criticism also makes the premise that much more scary.

The Mall is the first in the Downside series penned by S.L. Grey (aka Sarah Lotz and Louis Greenberg). It was first released in 2011 but has only been available here in the US for the past year. I can’t recommend it enough; seek it out, it’s well worth it!

7/15 Becky LeJeune

THE MALL by S.L. Grey. Atlantic Books; Reprint edition (April 1, 2014).  ISBN 978-1848878877. 320p.


DAY FOUR by Sarah Lotz

June 29, 2015
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Foveros Cruises has been plagued by bad press, so when things on The Beautiful Dreamer start to turn sour it’s no wonder the crew want to keep things under wraps. A fire breaks out in the engine room causing the ship to prepare for emergency evacuation. It never comes to that, but it does lead to the discovery of a dead girl in one of the staterooms. Dreamer security wants to chalk it up to “misadventure” but any investigation soon gets pushed by the wayside as they realize that the ship has lost power and is now drifting at sea. To make things worse, an outbreak of Norovirus has begun affecting both passengers and crew.

While those in charge try to remain positive, promising updates and rescue, the rest of the ship declines into a chaotic scene of violence and fear. No other ships have been seen for days, food and supplies are starting to dwindle, and the more superstitious on board are claiming supernatural forces are behind the whole thing.

Day Four is the absolute perfect summer read. It’s weird and creepy and hits all the right notes for anyone who enjoys somewhat offbeat/cross-genre reads.

Fans of Lotz’s The Three will quickly realize that Day Four is connected, though the connection doesn’t become clear until the end. Even still, there are questions after the conclusion making me wonder if Lotz has plans to further develop the premise with future installments. (I sincerely hope so.) You don’t have to have read The Three to start Day Four, though I would definitely recommend them both.

I should note that while The Three consists solely of articles, correspondence, and interviews, Day Four is a more traditional narrative. Anyone who might have struggled with Lot’s prior outing may find this latest easier to get into.

6/15 Becky LeJeune

DAY FOUR by Sarah Lotz.  Little, Brown and Company (June 16, 2015).  ISBN 978-0316242943. 352p.


THE DOLL COLLECTION edited by Ellen Datlow

April 4, 2015
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Seventeen Brand-New Tales of Dolls

What if a doll had the power to hold a piece of your soul? What if it could heal you or hold the evils and pains of the world? These ideas are just a few that are explored in Datlow’s latest cultivated collection of shorts.

Interestingly, Datlow noted in a recent interview (at the Once and Future Podcast, see below) that her one stipulation for the collection was basically no Chuckie dolls and the result is an odd an chilling blend: from serial killers to not so imaginary friends and even a panel of dolls who’ll hold you accountable for all your misdeeds against them, writers like Joyce Carol Oates, Carrie Vaughn, and Richard Kadrey have penned some of the creepiest doll stories ever in The Doll Collection.

Some of the standouts for me included Jeffrey Ford’s “Word Doll,” a wonderful and atmospheric folk tale sort of story; “Homemade Monsters” by John Langan, wherein a boy’s creation could be the explanation behind an odd childhood event; and  Seanan McGuire’s “There is No Place for Sorrow in the Kingdom of the Cold,” which ties to Pandora and her box of evils.

Whether you’re an avid collector or an anxious avoider, this anthology has something for everyone.

Table of Contents:
Skin and Bone by Tim Lebbon
Heroes and Villains by Stephen Gallagher
The Doll-Master by Joyce Carol Oates
Gaze by Gemma Files
In Case of Zebras by Pat Cadigan
There Is No Place For Sorrow in the Kingdom of the Cold by Seanan McGuire
Goodness and Kindness by Carrie Vaughn
Daniel’s Theory About Dolls by Stephen Graham Jones
After and Back Before by Miranda Siemienowicz
Doctor Faustus by Mary Robinette Kowal
Doll Court by Richard Bowes
Visit Lovely Cornwall on the Western Railway Line by Genevieve Valentine
Ambitious Boys Like You by Richard Kadrey
Miss Sibyl-Cassandra by Lucy Sussex
The Permanent Collection by Veronica Schanoes
Homemade Monsters by John Langan
Word Doll by Jeffrey Ford

Check out the podcast!

4/15 Becky LeJeune

THE DOLL COLLECTION edited by Ellen Datlow. Tor Books (March 10, 2015). ISBN: 978-0765376800. 352p.


THE CEMETERY BOYS by Heather Brewer

April 2, 2015
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Stephen and his father have moved to Spencer, Michigan as a last resort. See, about a year ago, Stephen’s mother started losing it. Now she’s in an institution. In that time, Stephen’s dad lost his job and, unable to find a new one, ran out of savings. So now, they’ve come to Spencer to stay with Stephen’s crotchety grandmother until his dad can get things back together.

Spencer is a weird town. The local factory closed shop and jobs are scarce; folks say they’re having “bad times.” And in Spencer, bad times are attributed to an urban legend that’s been part of the town’s history for over a century. The Winged Ones, giant beings that wreak havoc on Spencer, are at the heart of every bad thing that happens here. Or so they say. And when Stephen discovers that his new – and only – friends in Spencer have an odd fascination with The Winged Ones, he’ll have to decide not only whether to believe, but whether it’s worth the life of those most important to him.

Brewer’s latest could have been great. She touches on some really interesting things, a lot of which are truly scary: mental health, mythical beings, fear of being an outsider… Sadly she only really touches on them and as a result nothing goes into very much depth in this tale.

Stephen reads much younger than a seventeen-year-old for the most part and his family are little more than placeholders – his mom is a story (her psychosis would have been great if it had been further explained), his dad is wishy-washy and their interaction is minimal, and his grandmother – who must have SOME story – gets about three scenes total to be grumpy and cook meals.

The town’s history also suffers. The pieces the reader is presented with are limited to newspaper headlines at best – the town founder murdered his daughter?., – the stories are supposed to set context for, and support, the myth of The Winged Ones but there’s so very little there.

I wanted so much more out of The Cemetery Boys but ultimately it just didn’t live up to its own potential.

4/15 Becky LeJeune

THE CEMETERY BOYS by Heather Brewer. HarperTeen (March 31, 2015). ISBN: 978-0062307880. 288p.


TRIGGER WARNING by Neil Gaiman

February 12, 2015
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SHORT FICTIONS AND DISTURBANCES

Fans of the fantastical and horrific, take note: Neil Gaiman’s latest collection is an absolute must have. Trigger Warning features twenty-four pieces from the author ranging from poetry and folklore to Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Who.

A few of the pieces are new to the collection, including “Black Dog” a somewhat creepy tale featuring Shadow Moon of American Gods, but many of the tales – “The Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountains…,” “A Lunar Labyrinth,” and  “A Calendar of Tales” – to name a few, have appeared elsewhere and are collected here together for the first time.

A few of my personal favorites are the abovementioned “Black Dog” and “A Calendar of Tales,” which stemmed from a project/partnership with Blackberry. “Nothing O’Clock,” featuring Matt Smith’s Doctor Who, the kind of terrifying “Click-Clack the Rattlebag,” and “Adventure Story” round out my top five.

Trigger Warning is a pretty amazing collection all told, one that’s sure to please longtime fans but will also serve as a great introduction to Gaiman’s phenomenal scope and talent.

2/15 Becky LeJeune

TRIGGER WARNING: SHORT FICTIONS AND DISTURBANCES by Neil Gaiman. William Morrow (February 3, 2015). ISBN: 978-0062330260. 352p.