The excerpt below is from the short story, “Comets Tear the Skies.”
When I open my eyes, I have legs.
“The operation was successful,” the doctor beams.
I lift the white sheet with tentative fingers, and peek at my new set of legs. I had seen them in photos and in movies, prior, but on me they look foreign, almost hideous. I try to raise one but am unable to.
“Don’t,” the doctor says. “You’ll have time to learn how to use them before your mission begins.”
“I leave in two months. Is that enough time?”
“Yes, we’ve had some patients running within a month!”
I’m impressed. Maybe it won’t be so difficult after all. If I can manage the pain. I take another look beneath the sheet. They’re there, two perfectly toned pair of legs with a little drawing of a daisy chain circling around my right ankle.
“You couldn’t get rid of that?”
“Unfortunately, no, we were unable to remove that. But it won’t interfere with anything. It’s just a feeble embellishment.”
And also a constant reminder of the former owner of these legs.
But I don’t say that to the doctor. He seems so pleased with himself and the result of my operation. I don’t want to burst his bubble.
“Don’t worry about it, besides you can cover it up with clothes afterwards,” he says to me as though he’s read my mind. “Have you decided what name you’ll use during your mission?”
I manage a tiny smile and nod.
“Brenda,” I say. “My name is Brenda.” The name sounds foreign to me, much like my legs, but it reminds me of a character from the TV series I’ve been watching with the other missionaries to learn the new language. A name that will help me fit in.
“Your new life starts now, Brenda,” the doctor says. “We’re all aware of the great sacrifice you had to make in order to be chosen for this mission. Don’t think that our community isn’t humbled by your courage. You’re strong. You should be honored that you passed the selection process. Not many do.”
I sigh, thinking about the abomination below the sheet. What may seem like an honor to some, feels more like a curse to me.
But I can’t think like that.
I’m a new person now.
And in a couple of months I’ll be bound for Earth.
Jade Daniels is an angry, half-Indian outcast with an abusive father, an absent mother, and an entire town that wants nothing to do with her. She lives in her own world, a world in which protection comes from an unusual source: horror movies…especiallythe ones where a masked killer seeks revenge on a world that wronged them. And Jade narrates the quirky history of Proofrock as if it is one of those movies. But when blood actuallystarts to spill into the waters of Indian Lake, she pulls us into her dizzying, encyclopedic mind of blood and masked murderers, and predicts exactly how the plot will unfold.Yet, even as Jade drags us into her dark fever dream, a surprising and intimate portrait emerges…a portrait of the scared and traumatized little girl beneath the Jason Voorhees mask: angry, yes, but also a girl who easily cries, fiercely loves, and desperately wants a home. A girl whose feelings are too big for her body. My Heart Is a Chainsawis her story, her homage to horror and revenge and triumph.
The book opens with a very dark and creepy prologue – but I’ll admit that I wasn’t crazy about the two foreign tourists and was happy to meet the actual protagonist, Jade Daniels. Now Jade is everything a horror lover as myself loves, in fact had we been in high school together we would’ve had slasher sleepover parties. Jade is cool in the way that girls that love gore are – meaning her styling choices are questionable, her social skills nonexistent except when she’s spouting slasher speak and slasher trivia – and honestly I ADORE HER FOR IT.
We follow Jade – a recent high school graduate as she slowly begins to believe that a slasher film is unfolding in her very town. This convinces her to see beautiful rich girl Letha Mondragon as a potential final girl – and ultimate savior. For a slasher fan as myself I reveled in the slasher speak and pop culture references. I know many have mentioned this in other reviews, but the only fault this novel has is that it’s a slow burn.
Honestly, if Jade weren’t such a compelling character I don’t know if I would’ve enjoyed the journey so much but Jade is a total badass and I know that Jones’ delivers when it comes to horror and gore – so I patiently waited for the bloodbath. To say that Jones’ doesn’t disappoint is an understatement – if this were a movie, Jones’ budget would’ve blown just on the fake blood expense because there is SO MUCH OF IT & I AM HERE FOR IT. I mean, I directed a short where we used almost ten gallons of corn syrup, because I literally wanted to be drenched in it. And by the time you’re finished reading the gory, batshit crazy final pages you’re going to feel like you just waded in ten gallons of blood too.
Don’t walk but RUN to buy this book if you’re a fan of all 70’s & 80’s slasher flicks, cause you will LOVE this. Also, have I mentioned how awesomely badass Jade is? Go on, you know you want to get to know her! This book is fucking brutal and a wild ride.
*Thank you so much to NetGalley and Gallery/Saga Press for the digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!
If you listen carefully, sometimes at half past midnight, you can hear her voice. Florence Wakefield. The ghost of Gold Petal Fields. Her blood is in these fields. It’s why the trees are sick, their roots gnarled. Some say if you cut through the wood, you can see it—her blood in the lumber. They never should’ve used this land for anything, but the modern man rejects folklore, says that it’s mere superstitions, that there’s nothing to be found in these fields but your own shallow breath.
I know you may think that I’m crazy, but if you’re going to heed any lesson from my testimony, it’s this: Don’t tread on Florence’s land, or you’ll be sorry. I saw her ten years ago, it’s why I look like this, so I beg you, don’t go. Don’t go to Gold Petal Fields. That land is cursed.
“What do you make of that mumbo jumbo?” I say to Dave as I dip another chip into the bowl of salsa sitting between us.
“I don’t know. We can’t discredit her story as false, something happened to her in those fields to look the way she does.”
I nod, although I’m skeptical of the paranormal. Just because I’ve ventured on this podcast adventure with Dave doesn’t mean that I necessarily believe all the crazy stories we get sent to investigate. Especially since we’ve been able to debunk all of the ghost sightings we’ve investigated so far. Dave and I began our podcast “Agents of Spook” together three years ago, and ever since, our weekly listeners have increased exponentially. Our winning card is having video footage of our ghost hunting to go along with our podcast on our YouTube channel.
“I believe that she had a freak accident,” I concede. “But do I think that a two-hundred-sixty-five year-old ghost is to blame for her blindness? No, I don’t.”
Dave moves the cursor back on the video, rewinding it to the last few minutes and replays it.
“It’s why I look like this, so I beg you don’t go.”
He freezes the frame.
“You see that, Blythe?” He’s pointing to the computer screen, where Amanda Manthis stares blankly, or at least just sits there—I’m not sure how you can describe someone whose eyes are missing.
“What does that prove? Besides, she sent us this video, but then warns us not to go. It’s almost like she’s begging for us to go.” I dunk another chip in the salsa, scooping up a hefty amount before putting it in my mouth
“Maybe she only wants to know if what she thinks she saw was real or if something else happened to her entirely.”
I grab the packets of paper Dave printed earlier. Anything he was able to find about Florence Wakefield are in these papers. Legend has it that Florence Wakefield, the only child of the widowed oil tycoon Beau Wakefield, was brutally murdered by a group of villagers when rumors of witchcraft surfaced. Florence allegedly gave a poisoned concoction to a young teenage girl, Lydia Carson who had sought her herbal services. Modern medicine notes that perhaps the girl, unbeknownst to her, was deathly allergic to “eye of newt” or nowadays known in less Gothic terms as mustard seeds. These seeds were found to be part of the herbal tea that the young Lydia ingested. But Lydia’s father was distraught by his favored daughter’s death and vowed to seek revenge. When Beau Wakefield left town for a business venture to San Francisco, Mr. Carson, along with eleven other men, marched to the Wakefield estate. If Florence were a typical girl of her upbringing, they wouldn’t have been able to do what they did to her. But Florence wasn’t safe at home when they came looking for her. No. She was out in the fields. According to the historical documents and newspaper clippings, the men beat her and then tied her up to a stake where the crows pecked at her eyes. By the time the servants found her, it was too late. Florence was dead.
I set the papers back down on the desk, shaking my head.
“This is so disturbing.”
“Oh, but you haven’t heard it all . Exactly one month after her death, people began to see her ghost in the fields at night. Or as they said, a young woman wearing a pale pink dress. According to legend, it’s believed that if you try to communicate with the ghost, she lets you taste a dose of what she went through.”
“And that brings us back to why Amanda Manthis’ eyes look the way they do.”
“Yes,” Dave says. “That’s exactly it.”
“All of this is very fascinating, but you know that I don’t believe in ghosts.”
“I know you don’t. But that’s why we need to investigate and capture any weird phenomena with our trusty Canons.”
I look back up at Amanda’s freeze-framed face. She doesn’t look much older than thirty. Her brown hair is tied back as freckles adorn her button nose. But her eyes, or at least where her eyes used to be, are hollowed out. Heavy scar tissue now covers what used to be bleeding wounds. A chill runs down my spine, but I ignore it.
A whirlpool of darkness churns at the heart of a macabre ballet between two lonely young women in an internet chat room in the early 2000s—a darkness that threatens to forever transform them once they finally succumb to their most horrific desires.
What have you done today to deserve your eyes?
This dark tale begins with Agnes looking to sell an antique apple peeler and Zoe contacting her to buy said peeler. I know, I found the way the two protagonists virtually met strange for a horror novella, but it was very intriguing how their bond slowly grows. As the days go by the two women forge a tight relationship which slowly descends to sadomasochism and careens to absolute horrific madness.
The writing is very engaging and very vivid, creating a visceral rollercoaster that will leave you wondering WTF did you experience. It’s told in epistolary format of email exchanges and IM’s, making the reader feel that extra layer of voyeurism that ramps up the creepiness factor. I recommend reading this book in one sitting – it’s much more impactful that way as the tension and dread increases with each passing page.
The ending is a masterclass of true horror and one that readers won’t easily forget. Read this novella for a violent, wild ride full of debauchery and horror.
*Thank you so much to the author for the digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!
SHORT Q & A WITH AUTHOR
What inspired you to write the novella in the format that you did?
I’ve always been fascinated by books with unconventional formatting. I admire any opportunity to tell a story in a way that might be unique for the reader. The reason I chose this particular format for the novella was because I wanted the reader to feel voyeuristic in their reading, as if they were reading something they knew they shouldn’t be reading. That’s profoundly unsettling to me as a highly desensitized lover of horror. I shudder when I think of accidentally stumbling upon something that wasn’t meant for me to see—something horrible, something truly disturbing. I’ve been dabbling in unconventional formatting for many years now and this novella seemed like a natural progression for me and my work.
The novella establishes that the two protagonists are women – but the internet being the internet I was suspicious whether one of them or both were being truthful about their identities and their genders since it was commonplace in the 2000s to find men trying to pass off as women in lesbian chatrooms. The fact that the two protagonists never see each other through webcam nor exchange photos kind of makes you wonder if one of them is being catfished. Was it a conscious decision to create that suspicion in the reader?
That’s a fascinating reaction to the work. I actually had never considered that before and I’m quite disappointed in myself for not thinking of it first. I approached this concept quite literally when I first wrote it. In my head, they were always two women interacting with one another across the infinite gulf of the internet. As I was working on this piece, I definitely wanted there to be a sense of suspicion—a sense of distrust in the reader when considering the two main characters. Who can you trust? Who is telling the truth? Which one of them is the real monster? Of course, Zoe is less than savory for asking Agnes to perform such horrible acts. However, is Agnes a monster as well for being so agreeable?
What are your current fave horror books that you recommend?
Oh, so many to list. I’ll try to be brief. Lately I’ve been recommending Hauntedby Chuck Palahniuk quite a bit to fellow readers. I’ve read that book several times and it always unsettles me. I also heartily recommend Gwendolyn Kiste’s phenomenal The Rust Maidensif you’re looking for truly poignant body horror. Lastly, I usually recommend I’m Thinking of Ending Things by Ian Reid. Such an inspiring tale of existential dread.
Do you have any other projects that you’re currently working on and are going to be released soon?
I’m currently at work on a bunch of different writing projects. Most of them involve contracts, so unfortunately I’m unable to share full details until the publisher makes the official announcement on social media. I’m so happy to report that I’ll have work being consistently published over the course of the next few years and I certainly hope my readers stick with me as I continue to release new material.
Honestly, this is too good not to ask but what have you done today to deserve your eyes?
Nice try, Zoe . . . Just kidding. But seriously. Kindness. The answer is always kindness. Whether it’s showing kindness to another living thing or receiving kindness gracefully, that should be our priority as human beings every day we’re on this planet.
June is Pride Month and this year one of my short stories, “Some Kind of Monster” will appear in the Queer Anthology, Unburied. Proceeds from book sales will be going to a LGBTQ charity, so what better way to read some cool stories AND help out for a good cause!
I could never see the monster, I just knew that it was large because anytime I found myself in his viscid stomach, I was swallowed whole. Never chomped up in little pieces.
Last night, once again I had the same nightmare. I was in the monster’s belly, the acrid scent of his stomach acid made me gag as I floundered in it, blind. I can’t ever see the inside of it because of how cavernous it is. All I can feel is the stifling sense of being wrapped in an unwanted hug.
The nightmare usually laves me feeling unsettled. No amount of hot tea and buttered biscuits can comfort me back to normalcy. After one those nightmares, I tend to spend the rest of the day jumpy and tense, my shoulders sore from my inability to relax. Another side-effect of this reoccurring nightmare was that whenever I woke up, drenched to the bone and shaking, it would leave me so wound up that attempting to fall back to sleep was futile, even if I had three hours to spare before my alarm would sound off.
There I was, sitting my cubicle both in dire need of sleep and also very afraid of being met with the same feeling of dread and anguish that the nightmare always delivered. My eyelids felt heavy, like keeping them open was a task in itself, and one that I was certain I’d fall victim to if I didn’t get my ass out of the chair and mainline some caffeine into me stat.
I hurried to the break room not caring that I had already taken a break twenty minutes ago. My sanity depended on staying awake. I felt like those scream queens on A Nightmare on Elm Street where they conjured up inventive ways to keep themselves awake, lest they become savory kebabs for Freddy’s expert razor claws.
“Another coffee? Tough morning, huh?” My co-worker Jack asked with an easy shiteating grin that made the other girls in the office swoon but that I despised. His dockers were perfectly pressed and the button down shirt impeccably ironed. He ran a hand through his sandy blond hair.
I knew I looked as much as disaster as I felt. My curls still tangled and pinned to the top of my head in a messy bun, yesterday’s eyeliner smeared under my eyes, and a gel manicure outgrown its natural stay that my half-moons where visible. I just shrugged not wanting to commit to an answer. Hoping that maybe this would dissuade him from small talk.
“You look like you could use some sleep, Sharon.”
No shit, Sherlock.
I plastered a fake smile and replied, “You’re so very astute, Jack.” I silently begged for him to leave the break room so that I could have a few moments to myself. But Jack lingered with his dopey grin.
“What’s this?” He pointed to something on the side of my neck.
I hope it’s not a hickey, although I haven’t made out with anyone in weeks. I went towards the mirror placed above the sink, to inspect and oddly enough there on the side of my neck were three punctures holes. I carefully touched the wounds, not understanding where or how I could’ve gotten them.
Tress Montor’s family used to mean something—until she didn’t have a family anymore. When her parents disappeared seven years ago while driving her best friend home, Tress lost everything. The entire town shuns her now that she lives with her drunken, one-eyed grandfather at what locals refer to as the “White Trash Zoo.”
Felicity Turnado has it all: looks, money, and a secret. One misstep could send her tumbling from the top of the social ladder, and she’s worked hard to make everyone forget that she was with the Montors the night they disappeared. Felicity has buried what she knows so deeply that she can’t even remember what it is . . . only that she can’t look at Tress without feeling shame and guilt.
But Tress has a plan. A Halloween costume party at an abandoned house provides the ideal situation for Tress to pry the truth from Felicity—brick by brick—as she slowly seals her former best friend into a coal chute. Tress will have her answers—or settle for revenge.
Ever since I read The Female of the Species years ago, Mindy McGinnis has easily become an auto-buy for me whenever she drops a novel. It doesn’t matter what genre or subject she tries to tackle, I know that it’s going to be one wild ride, as McGinnis has this unique way of creating crazy plots where it’s impossible to truly know where the story is going to go. And I think it’s probably because McGinnis may be more of a pantser author as myself than one who outlines the whole plot.
The Initial Insult sees McGinnis exploring Poe’s The Cask of Amontillado with a Tiger King twist. Two ex-bestfriends Tress and Felicity find themselves at the same party their senior year. Years ago, when the two were younger, the girls were inseparable, then one night whilst Tress’s parents were driving Felicity back home, something occurred. Tress’s parents mysteriously disappeared whilst Felicity was found on the riverbanks alone with no knowledge of what happened that night. Tress has lost everything because of her parents’ disappearance, and she’s convinced that Felicity knows the truth of what happened that night and she’s going to do anything to get her to speak, even if it means slowly walling her alive, brick by brick.
This novel is told in the dual points of views of both Tress and Felicity, which helps amp up the tension and build the thrills. This is a crazy ride and as always, McGinnis’ characters are gritty and strong even at their most vulnerable. Sadly, this novel is only Part I, and seeing how it ended, it’s going to be so hard to have to wait one year to read the sequel!
I recommend this book if you’re a fan of McGinnis and Poe (you’ll love all the references).
Richard doesn’t have a past. For him, there is only the present: a new marriage to Tamara, a first chance at fatherhood to her son Elijah, and a quiet but pleasant life as an art teacher at Elijah’s elementary school in Danvers, Virginia. Then the body of a rabbit, ritualistically murdered, appears on the school grounds with a birthday card for Richard tucked beneath it. Richard doesn’t have a birthday—but Sean does . . .
Sean is a five-year-old boy who has just moved to Greenfield, Virginia, with his mother. Like most mothers of the 1980s, she’s worried about bills, childcare, putting food on the table . . . and an encroaching threat to American life that can take the face of anyone: a politician, a friendly neighbor, or even a teacher. When Sean’s school sends a letter to the parents revealing that Sean’s favorite teacher is under investigation, a white lie from Sean lights a fire that engulfs the entire nation—and Sean and his mother are left holding the match.
Now, thirty years later, someone is here to remind Richard that they remember what Sean did. And though Sean doesn’t exist anymore, someone needs to pay the price for his lies.
This is my second sampling of Clay’s writing and I must say that I really enjoy how strong his novels begin. This novel is steeped in reality as it’s based off of the 80’s Satanic Panic that made people suspect of anyone in getting caught up with witchcraft. In the 80’s a California preschool was in the news for the teachers were accused of being Satanists. Obviously, it all ended up being one big lie, and this book explores what happens when a little boy delivers a lie that changes not only his life but that of many people. Sean is five years old when he accuses his kindergarten teacher of worshiping the devil. Years later, we see how that lie comes back to haunt him.
Some parts of the book were creepy (I really enjoyed the Gray Boy) and some of them were kinda slow. I liked how it explored the Satanic Panic craze as I was too little to recall any of it when it was happening, not to mention that since my parents weren’t the crazy types, they never thought that Cabbage Patch Kids or The Smurfs were “Satanic.”
I did enjoy the dual narratives between Sean in 1983 and Richard in 2013 as it amped up the mystery of what happened and trying to figure out what exactly what went on. The imagery was dark and creepy and I was compelled to keep on reading as more and more of the mystery began to unravel. I liked how the book ended but it felt like the novel began to drag towards the end, so I would’ve preferred a more tightened end, but I did like how we were left with a question rather than all answers.
*Thank you so much to NetGalley and Quirk Books for the digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!
If like me you’re fully vaccinated and eyeing the upcoming summer months as a means to finally escape the lockdown inferno we’ve all been living in – then you may have been wondering what books you should throw in your beach bag as you head off to the nearest beach or holiday. For horror fans – these three books are a perfect mixture of creepy and chilling. So slather on some sunscreen and pull out of these novels for a thrilling ride.
REDDER DAYS BY SUE RAINSFORD
Twins Anna and Adam live in an abandoned commune in a volatile landscape where they prepare for the world-ending event they believe is imminent. Adam keeps watch by day, Anna by night. They meet at dawn and dusk.
Their only companion is Koan, the commune’s former leader, who still exerts a malignant control over their daily rituals. But when one of the previous inhabitants returns, everything Anna and Adam thought they knew to be true is thrown into question.
THE UNWELCOME BY JACOB STEVEN MOHR
Kait’s volcanic temper has already scared most of her friends away, and a bad breakup with her college boyfriend Lutz has left her crippled by guilt and painful memories. So, when she learns that her best friend Alice is planning a three-day sabbatical in a secluded mountain cabin, Kait jumps at the chance to tag along, convinced that rekindling their fractured friendship is the key to fixing whatever’s breaking down inside of her. She should have known… Lutz would never let her go so easily. After a chance roadside meeting, Kait’s jealous ex-boyfriend pursues her into the foothills, revealing the monster under his skin for the first time: a body-snatching inhuman entity capable of assimilating and adopting the guise of any human host. Lutz is determined to prove his twisted love to Kait, even if it means carving his monument to his devotion in the pilfered flesh of her closest friends. Now, with miles of snow-hushed Appalachia between them and civilization, Kait must unite her friends against this horrifying threat, and learn to embrace her own inner monster, before the shadows of her past swallow up her life for good.
SUMMER SONS BY LEE MANDELA
Andrew and Eddie did everything together, best friends bonded more deeply than brothers, until Eddie left Andrew behind to start his graduate program at Vanderbilt. Six months later, only days before Andrew was to join him in Nashville, Eddie dies of an apparent suicide. He leaves Andrew a horrible inheritance: a roommate he doesn’t know, friends he never asked for, and a gruesome phantom that hungers for him.
As Andrew searches for the truth of Eddie’s death, he uncovers the lies and secrets left behind by the person he trusted most, discovering a family history soaked in blood and death. Whirling between the backstabbing academic world where Eddie spent his days and the circle of hot boys, fast cars, and hard drugs that ruled Eddie’s nights, the walls Andrew has built against the world begin to crumble.
And there is something awful lurking, waiting for those walls to fall.
Which of these books are you looking forward to read?
Each summer the girls of Deck Five come back to Marshall Naval School. They sail on jewel-blue waters; they march on green drill-fields; they earn sunburns and honors. They push until they break apart and heal again, stronger.
Each summer Margaret and Rose and Flor and Nisreen come back to the place where they are girls, safe away from the world: sisters bound by something more than blood.
But this summer everything has changed. Girls are missing and a boy is dead. It’s because of Margaret Moore, the boys say. It’s because of what happened that night in the storm.
Margaret’s friends vanish one by one, swallowed up into the lies she has told about what happened between her and a boy with the world at his feet. Can she unravel the secrets of this summer and last, or will she be pulled under by the place she once called home?
Margaret Moore loves her Deck Five girls – every summer she goes to Marshall Naval School and the summer is the only time she feels alive. But something happened the year before with a boy and that has changed the dynamics of the new year. The writing is a lyrical punch in the gut – and ever since I read Foul Is Fair last year I fell instantly in love with Capin’s writing style. However, this novel didn’t keep me as engaged as her previous one. Not because I didn’t enjoy the story or the protagonist, because I did. And there’s a huge twist towards the middle of the novel, and maybe it’s because I anticipated the twist or maybe because the ending happened way too long after the twist that the novel began to feel a tad repetitive.
That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, because once you know the twist, you’ll understand why there’s the repetitiveness to it. And yes, this novel too is filled with ferocious friendships and violent revenge, but I suppose since reading her previous novel that was far bloodier, I was expecting a bit more?
If this is your first time reading Capin, you may love this book more because it’s got a group of friends you will root for, a protagonist that is both relateable and someone you can feel empathy for, and again, the writing is both razor sharp and poetically beautiful. So there is much to love in this novel if you’re a new reader.
I recommend this book if you love feminist revenge stories with strong female friendships.
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