Book Review: Lullabies for the Suffering: Tales of Addiction Horror

suffering

Release Date: January 14, 2020

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Publisher: Wicked Run Press

Price: $14.95 (paperback)

Plot Summary:

Addiction starts like a sweet lullaby sung by a trusted loved one. It washes away the pains of the day and wraps you in the warmness of the womb where nothing hurts and every dream is possible. Yet soon enough, this warm state of bliss becomes a cold shiver, the ecstasy and dreams become nightmares, yet we can’t stop listening to the lullaby. We crave to hear the siren song as it rips us apart.

Six stories: three novellas, three novelettes, written by a powerful list of talent, all featuring the insidious nature of addiction–damaged humans craving for highs and wholeness but finding something more tragic and horrific on the other side.

Grade: B+

Review:

First of all, I’m going to admit that I absolutely LOVE how hauntingly beautiful the cover is. I would’ve noticed this anthology for the cover alone. Secondly, I’m a huge fan of the TV Series YOU, so knowing that Caroline Kepnes contributed to the anthology gave me the extra push I needed to pick it up.

All the stories in this anthology center around addition (something they’re drug-related other times it’s the addiction to something else that’s just as decremental to your health and turns you a slave). Most of the stories written for the anthology aren’t truly short stories but verge on the novella length, which I didn’t mind at all. With any anthology, there were some gems and some misses for me. Unfortunately, the anthology started off truly strong with “Sometimes They See Me,” by Kealan Patrick Burke, which is a tale about two addict and their crazy benders. There’s something truly haunting about it and one that will leave you questioning any painting or wallpaper you ever see again.

“Monsters” by Caroline Krepnes follows the same writing style as YOU (writing in the second person) at least when the story is narrated by a lonely young man who is accused of a crime he didn’t commit. I really enjoyed the story, but despite the narrator having been wronged, I still feel like he had very much Joe-vibes going on.

My absolute favourite story from the whole anthology was “Lizard” by Mark Matthews. It had everything I looked for in a horror addiction story. It showed the horrors of true addiction but it also had supernatural elements to it that I enjoyed very much. Also, it ends in a very ambiguous way ala “The Lady or the Tiger” where you’re left questioning what decision did the protagonist makes after all?

“The Melting Point of Meat” by John FD Taff started off very strong for me, but kind of took a Clive Barker turn towards the end that I wasn’t a fan of. I would’ve enjoyed this story better if it had another ending.

After that story, the anthology started going downhill for me. I didn’t particularly enjoy “Beyond the Reef” Gabino Iglesias nor “Love is a Crematorium” by Mercedes M. Yardley. I know that addiction usually ends with the addict’s death, however, Yardley’s story was more real-life horror than anything else. It was truly gut-wrenching but I suppose I was still waiting for horror (as in psychological, supernatural, or slasher) to happen. And I had a HUGE issue with the male protagonist Kelly, whom we’re supposed to see as some kind of Romeo, but honestly, he seemed perfectly OKAY allowing Joy (the girl he loved) to prostitute herself for food money. I don’t understand why he never tried to resolve their lack of cash problem or actually be of help rather than just be there but not really doing anything for Joy. I wouldn’t have run away with this dude, he really provided no resource at all, not even emotional support.

I recommend this anthology if you’re into tales of addiction with a dash of darkness.

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Book Review: Heroine by Mindy McGinnis

heroine

When I wake up, all my friends are dead.

Release date: March 12, 2019

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Price: $13.28 (hardcover)

Plot Summary:

When a car crash sidelines Mickey just before softball season, she has to find a way to hold on to her spot as the catcher for a team expected to make a historic tournament run. Behind the plate is the only place she’s ever felt comfortable, and the painkillers she’s been prescribed can help her get there.

The pills do more than take away pain; they make her feel good.

With a new circle of friends—fellow injured athletes, others with just time to kill—Mickey finds peaceful acceptance, and people with whom words come easily, even if it is just the pills loosening her tongue.

But as the pressure to be Mickey Catalan heightens her need increases, and it becomes less about pain and more about want, something that could send her spiraling out of control.

Grade: A

Review:

I’ll admit it. I am a little biased when it comes to Mindy McGinnis. Ever since I read The Female of the Species, I’ve been hooked on her writing. I love that she’s willing to tackle difficult subjects like rape culture, mental illness, or in this case opioid addiction. McGinnis’ writing is raw, direct, and not for the faint of heart. Things get gritty in her novels, and Heroine is one of her grittiest yet.

What makes this novel stand out from her previous ones is that her protagonist Mickey could be any teenager in America right now. Mickey doesn’t fall into addiction because of befriending the wrong crowd, peer pressure, or any of the past reasons why teens often found themselves dabbling in drugs. No, Mickey becomes an addict due to a car accident that requires her to have a serious surgery and her doctor later prescribes OxyContin to her.

At first Mickey ups her dosage because she’s in too much pain but still wants to perform like she did because of her car accident in her Softball position. She feels like she not only owes to herself, but her teammates, coach, and parents to get well soon and return to being the unbeatable Mickey Catalan. Only thing is, she soon discovers that OxyContin not only does it make her not feel the pain but it also chases away all of her social anxiety. Soon, Mickey is relying on the drugs more for her emotional well being than a physical need.

As a reader, although from the very beginning we know that it’s going to end very tragically for Mickey and her friends, we’re lulled into a strange sense of security, almost like the writing itself works like a drug. We, like Mickey, believe that the drugs will only help her, but it’s a slippery slope from performing like she used to, to becoming a full-fledged addict who has violent withdrawals anytime she has to do without her dose. The withdrawals are as gritty as they could possibly get.

McGinnis is never preachy in her books, she merely lays out the story’s events in a way that chronicles what someone in that position would possibly go through. And that’s what makes it the most terrifying because anyone of us could be Mickey, and anyone of us could befall Mickey’s fate.

This is a raw book about a timely crisis (with overdoses being the nation’s leading cause of death in the United States right now), I think it’s a book that any teen or adult could benefit from reading. But let me warn you, this journey isn’t a pretty one at all. But a highly educational one.

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Book Review: Blood Echo by Christopher Rice

bloodecho

A conspiracy that promises bloodshed and the only woman who can stop it…

Release Date: February 19, 2019

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Price: $15.99 (hardcover)

Publisher: Thomas & Mercer

Plot Summary:

Kidnapped and raised by serial killers, Charlotte Rowe suffered an ordeal that made her infamous. Everyone in the world knew who she was. But no one in the world has any idea what she’s become…

Charlotte is an experiment. And a weapon. Enabled by a superpower drug, she’s partnered with a shadowy pharmaceutical company to hunt down and eliminate society’s most depraved human predators. But her latest mission goes off the rails in a horrifying way. Unsettled by her own capacity for violence, Charlotte wants some time to retreat so she can work on her new relationship with Luke, a sheriff’s deputy in the isolated Central California town she now calls home.
If only the threats hadn’t followed Charlotte there.

Something sinister is evolving in Altamira, California—a massive network of domestic terrorists with ties to Charlotte’s influential and corrupt employers. As a vast and explosive criminal conspiracy grows, the fate of Charlotte’s hometown hangs in the balance. With everyone she cares about in danger, Charlotte has no choice but to bring her powers home.
Charlotte Rowe has been triggered, and now she’ll have to take matters into her own powerful hands.

Grade: A

Review:

I’ve been a fan of Christopher Rice since 1999 when he released A Density of Souls. And yes, I’ll be honest, I did check him out solely because I am a huge fan of his mother Anne Rice (the brilliant mind behind The Vampire Chronicles & The Mayfair Witches sagas), but what has kept me picking up his books time and time again (I’ve read all of his, even his venture into erotica), is the fact that Christopher is a competent writer of his own and that he manages to put together taunt, fast-paced thrillers that you can’t help but speed read through them to try to get to the end.

Now, Blood Echo is the sequel to Bone Music, of the Burning Girl Series, and while I did like book one, there was something about it that it just didn’t make me crazy about it (maybe cause a lot of book one was spent setting up the premise for book two), however, book two is waaaay better, writing-wise and plot-wise. Also, I get the feeling that Rice has gotten to know his characters more, so Charley (aka Burning Girl since she grew up with adopted serial killer parents who tasked her turning on the incinerator that burned said bodies) is way more fleshed out and interesting in this sequel, not to mention that she completely kicks ass (think of The Hulk meets Silence of the Lambs).

This book has everything that a modern audience loves, a compelling mystery/thriller aspect to it, a superhero (or at least a character with superhero qualities, even though they’re drug-induced powers), and a strong female protagonist. With those three ingredients, you can’t possibly go wrong. I recommend this book if you’re into books with third-person omniscient narratives (which I love!) and if love to be taken for a wild ride, cause honestly, you’re gonna need to strap yourself for this high-speed thriller.

*Thank you so much to NetGalley and Thomas & Mercer for the digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

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