the Little Red Reviewer

Posts Tagged ‘horror

Final Girls, by Mira Grant

Available April 30th, 2017

where I got it: received review copy from the publisher (thanks Subterranean!)

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Mira Grant (also known as Seanan McGuire), is famous for her novels and series – the Newsflesh series, the October Daye series, and plenty of stand alones. Having read a small sample of her work, my opinion is that Grant’s talent shines brightest in her short fiction.  Her new stand alone novella, Final Girls, can be enjoyed over the course of an afternoon. And trust me, you’ll only need the one afternoon to read this novella, because you won’t be able to put it down.

 

I wrote an entire page of notes just in the first 30 pages of this 112 page novella, and by the time I finished the story, all my notes were irrelevant because the story had twisted and turned in about hundred unexpected directions.

 

Esther Hoffman, a journalist who specializes in debunking quackery, has been assigned to do an investigative report on Dr. Jennifer Webb’s new methods of therapy.  Dr. Webb uses dream therapy – her patients read about a horrific scenario in which they face their deepest fears, and then they are put into a hypnotic dream state where they dream the scenario and play it out to it’s conclusion. The person is physically perfectly safe, and a technician watches their vital signs to pull them out if anything dangerous happens.  Ideally, the patient learns that they can, and will survive whatever hardships they’ve been facing, and that they can now move on and live a mentally healthier life.

 

At first blush, Final Girls feels like a cross between the movies Paprika and Inception. Except Esther brings plenty of baggage to Dr. Webb’s office, and Dr. Webb is only interested in seeing her name on research papers or a nobel prize.   Dr. Webb convinces Esther that the only way she can honestly judge the quality of this new research is to do a session of therapy, and see how or even if it changes her thoughts. As Esther signs the release forms, you can practically see Webb’s ulterior motives in the corner of her toothy grin.

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In Michael Wehunt’s debut short story collection, Greener Pastures,  readers will enjoy a variety of his favorite short stories – everything from unsettling horror, to spooky fun, to Southern gothic, to unnerving dogs and haunted woods.  If you’re looking for unsettling stories that touch on a variety of themes, this is a collection you should look.   Greener Pastures was nominated for the Crawford Award, which is presented annually by the International Association for the Fantastic in the Arts for a first book of fantasy.

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Michael had some fun when Greener Pastures came out from Apex Publications, he made a bunch of meme-ish images, and they are hilarious!  I’ll be posting a few of them throughout the interview, here’s a link to the whole collection.   Michael’s short fiction has appeared in Innsmouth Magazine, Shock Totem Magazine, Aghast,  Unlikely Story, The Dark, Cemetery Dance, Year’s Best Weird Fiction Vol 3,  and The Year’s Best Dark Fantasy and Horror 2016 among many others.   Michael was kind enough to answer my questions about the amazing cover art on this collection, how he knew what should go in the collection and what should be left out, why writing horror is so much fun, and more!  Let’s get to the interview!

Andrea Johnson: The cover art for Greener Pastures features some easter eggs that connect with stories in the collection. Most authors don’t have any control over the cover art of their books, but you had a number of conversations with cover artist Michael Bukowksi about what you wanted in the artwork. What can you tell us about your brainstorming sessions with the artist and how the two of you decided what the cover art should include?

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Michael Wehunt: I was lucky to be able to commission an artist for a new piece, and I was doubly lucky to choose someone as talented and collaborative as Michael. He was enthusiastic and communicative from the beginning. The first thing I told him was that I was open to anything. The second thing was an asterisk regarding the first thing—that I had my heart set on trees. Not every story in Greener Pastures features trees, but the book as a whole felt very woodsy and earthy to me. And I knew from Michael’s style that the trees would look amazing and draw the viewer in. We started brainstorming with the diner from the title story, crowded on one side by the woods, but as soon as Michael read the story “October Film Haunt: Under the House,” he really wanted to use the dog with the wooden crown in its mouth as the focal point (the dog unnerved him deeply), and that was instantly a yes for both of us. So the woods became the entire backdrop, which was the right choice. From there we decided to do a full wraparound cover, which was exciting, and with the extra space we chose elements from three other stories to include in the art, and a year later I’m still in love with the entire piece.

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Lee Thompson’s newest novella, Shine Your Light On Me, is now available through Apex Publications. Thompson writes thrillers, mysteries, and horror, often focusing on how to regain our humanity when we feel that all has been lost. His previous novels include A Beautiful Madness, It’s Only Death, With Fury in Hand, and When We Join Jesus in Hell. (Click here for info on purchasing Shine Your Light On Me)
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In Shine Your Light on Me, Aiden faces a family tragedy only to months later be given the gift of healing. He doesn’t understand how his gift works, but his neighbors and acquaintances demand that he use it for them. When he could have the power to heal an entire town, does Aiden really have a choice? Desperate measures, indeed. Lee Thompson was kind enough to chat with me over e-mail about this thrilling new novella and other projects he has in the works. You can learn more about Lee at his website, Lee Thompson Fiction.

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Let’s get to the interview!


Andrea: The plot of Shine Your Light On Me sounds absolutely fascinating. Miraculous healings, hopefulness that turns into dark desperation, and a teenager thrown into the middle of it all. Where did the idea for this story come from? Even more incredible is that this is a novella! How did you cram all of that into less than 200 pages?

Lee: Thanks for the interview, Andrea.

Well, Ken Wood from Shock Totem would tell you I was inspired by the cover for issue 4. And he’s partly right. Mostly it was asking myself, what things haven’t I written about that I want to now, right now? And I thought about it for weeks, finally realizing that to go from being a no one to everyone wanting a piece of you, would be terrifying to me. Especially if I was still a teenager. It’s kind of the opposite of Stephen King’s Carrie.

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grass-tepperGrass by Sheri S. Tepper

published in 1989

where I got it: have owned forever

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Sheri S. Tepper’s Arbai trilogy consists of Grass (1989),  Raising the Stones (1990), and Sideshow (1992).  Although they take place in the same universe and a few characters cross over, you can read these books as stand alones, or in any order you want. Sideshow is my favorite of the bunch, and I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve read it.  In the trilogy, humanity has colonized many planets, and colonists live rather pastoral lives on these mostly empty planets.  We’ve come across tons of alien ruins, but very little in the way of living aliens. Like many space operas, there is politics and intrigue, back stabbing and the loss of innocent life.  Grass was nominated for the Hugo and the Locus award, but sadly these novels seem to have passed into obscurity. It’s really too bad, because all three are freakin’ fantastic.

 

At first blush, the plot of Grass feels a little like Frank Herbert’s Dune – political family goes to secretive planet, has no idea what they are getting themselves into, intrigue and attempted murder ensues, family must connect with the locals if they hope to survive. Tepper of course takes things in a completely different direction, but if you liked Dune you’ll probably like Grass, and if you’re interested in Dune but have maybe felt a little intimidated by it, give Grass a try.  Grass is a planet on which nothing is what it seems, and everything you don’t understand is so old even its history has become a myth.

 

The “nobility” of Grass have no interest in hosting the Yrarier family or in allowing their children to fraternize with the Yrarier heirs. Ostensibly ambassadors of the Church, the Marjorie and Rigo Yrarier have just enough upper crust-ness to hopefully be accepted by the Bons of Grass.  But more important than that, the Yrariers were chosen because both Marjorie and Rigo are retired equestrian olympians, and the entire family is highly skilled in horsemanship and hunting.  It sounds very old fashioned, but what are nobles if not old fashioned? And everyone on Grass is simply obsessed with hunting.

 

What happens when an obsession become something you are no longer in control of, something you are no longer able to choose for yourself? I’m not talking about a cult, I’m talking about something much worse.

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alethea-lumos-2New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Alethea Kontis is a princess, a fairy godmother, and a geek. She’s known for screwing up the alphabet, scolding vampire hunters, and ranting about fairy tales on YouTube.  Her YA novels have won two Gelett Burgess Awards, and she’s twice been nominated for the Andre Norton award. She’s the author of  Wild and Wishful, Dark and Dreaming, the AlphaOops series, the ongoing Arilland Fairy Tale series, and her short fiction has appeared in Apex Magazine, Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show, Shimmer Magazine, Shroud Magazine, and various anthologies.

Alethea’s newest novel is Haven, Kansas.  She was kind enough to let me in on all the behind the scenes secrets of how this accidentally humorous and on-purpose scary horror novel came about,  her Traveling Sideshow,  how she scored such beautiful cover art for this newest novel, and more. Learn more about Alethea at her website AletheaKontis.com, her Patreon site, or follow her on twitter @AletheaKontis.

And Alethea? If you’d like to place your next novel in Hell, here you go. While she’s brainstorming on that plot, let’s the rest of us enjoy this fantastic interview!

Little Red Reviewer: Haven, Kansas is first and foremost a horror story, but it’s also very humorous! Did you set out from the start to include funny lines, or did they just grow with the story as you were writing? What’s the trick to successfully mixing humor and horror?

Alethea Kontis: I’ve been writing regularly—and submitting for publication—since I was eight years old. Due to a genius-level aptitude for math and science (because: irony), I did not take a formal class on fiction writing until I was 27 (Orson Scott Card’s Literary Boot Camp). One of the things I learned in that class was, “Humor sells. But it is almost impossible to write, and write well, so just don’t do it.” So I didn’t do it. I didn’t even try. I wrote dialogue I felt was real, and true to my characters, and I moved on.

haven-kansasAnd then I started hearing back from readers. I mean, beyond the AlphaOops books, because they were supposed to be funny….but like, I remember one of the first reviewers for Dearest said how it was the most romantic and funniest novel I had ever written, and I was shocked. Really? Romantic, yes, but I didn’t write it to be funny! I just created a world that included seven brothers who talked smack to each other, like every bunch of guys I’ve ever hung out with. I felt much the same way when I started getting feedback about the humor in Haven, Kansas. Humor and horror? Who does that? But I’m one of those crazy people who will cry all the way up to a funeral and then almost burst out laughing in the middle of the ceremony. Humor and hurt and fear and love…they’re all feelings—true feelings—that we all feel, whether we have control over them or not.

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nos4a2NOS4A2 by Joe Hill

published 2013

where I got it: purchased new

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Let’s get the crux of this novel out of the way right away:  Charles Manx is one creepy motherfucker.  Driving across the country in his Rolls Royce, he promises to take good little boys and girls to Christmasland where they will always be happy and every day is Christmas morning. Manx’s henchman Bing gets to take care of the mothers.

And then there’s Victoria McQueen. She is hella awesome. And unusually talented at finding lost things.  She can hop on her bike, travel across a rickety magical bridge, and find herself wherever she needs to be to find the lost item.  Her parents are half convinced she’s been stealing trinkets all this time and “magically” finding them as a way to get attention.  One day she hops on her bike angry, looking to find some trouble. She finds Charlie Manx instead.

At seventeen years old, Vic becomes the only child to ever escape Charlie Manx. She hopped on her bicycle in Massachusetts, and was found terrified and babbling days later in Colorado. Knowing  no one would ever believe her story about a magical bridge, she lied to the authorities and said she’d spent two days locked in the trunk of Manx’s car.

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blue aliceLast Night at the Blue Alice, by Mehitobel Wilson

published Oct 2015

where I got it: received review copy from the author (thanks!)

 

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You can thank the Glymjacks for the fact that you’re not surrounded by haunted houses and angry, vengeful ghosts.

 

Tonight is the night of Mollie’s final test to enter the ranks of the Glymjacks. If she passes the test, she can say goodbye to everything she’s ever known and loved. If she doesn’t pass, she can only hope for  a fast death.   Her test involves clearing the Blue Alice, a famous haunted house, of its resident ghosts.  Mollie isn’t interested in why these people died, and she doesn’t care that they died. Her mission to learn what they were going through when they died, and ensure that they die in a more peaceful manner. She’s auditioning to be their psychopomp, someone who will help them to the other side, help them go somewhere away from the Blue Alice.

 

There is a whole ton of gorgeous poetic prose in this short novel, almost functioning as textural and musical bridges between scenes and towards set pieces. Here’s an example that comes right at the beginning, and was one of my favorites:

 

“You would expect it to be a blue house, but it is not. It’s an exhausted color that warps with the changing of the light, beige at dawn, bone at noon, grey at night. But at dusk, just as the sun falls far enough below the horizon to withdraw all its gold from the landscape, the Alice turns blue.”

 

A sprawling manse that became a boarding house in the 1920s and then apartments by the 1960s, the Blue Alice has seen it’s share of happiness and misery. Urban legends tell of a woman dressed in white who haunts the building, music playing where there shouldn’t be any, and judgemental demons.  Barely a year has gone by in the history of this famous house where a tenant hasn’t fled in terror of something or someone haunting the rooms and halls. It’s time to clean house.

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some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.