Author: Holley Cornetto

Epeolatry Book Review: Generation X-Ed, ed. Rebecca Rowland

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Title: Generation X-Ed
Author: Various, ed. Rebecca Rowland
Genre: Horror
Publisher: Dark Ink Books
Release Date: 26th January, 2022

Synopsis: Bestselling editor Rebecca Rowland (Unburied: A Collection of Queer Dark Fiction) and Dark Ink Books (SaviniUnmasked: The True Life Story of the World’s Most Prolific Cinematic Killer) present a unique anthology of monster, folk, paranormal, and psychological horror as glimpsed through the lens of the latchkey generation. In this assortment of spine-chilling tales, twenty-two voices shine a strobe light on the cultural demons that lurked in the background while they came of age in the heyday of Satanic panic and slasher flicks, milk carton missing and music television, video rentals and riot grrrls.

These Gen-X storytellers once stayed out unsupervised until the streetlights came on, and what they brought home with them will terrify you.

Featuring brand new fiction from Kevin David Anderson, Glynn Owen Barrass, Matthew Barron, C.D. Brown, Matthew Chabin, L.E. Daniels, C.O. Davidson, Douglas Ford, Phil Ford, Holly Rae Garcia, Dale W. Glaser, Tim Jeffreys, Derek Austin Johnson, Eldon Litchfield, Adrian Ludens, Elaine Pascale, Erica Ruppert, Kristi Petersen Schoonover, Rob Smales, Mark Towse, Thomas Vaughn, and Thomas K.S. Wake.

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Epeolatry Book Review: In Somnio, ed. Alex Woodroe

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Title: In Somnio
Author: Various, ed. Alex Woodroe
Genre: Horror
Publisher: Tenebrous Press
Release Date: 1st November, 2021

Synopsis: Twenty-five women and non-binary writers from the worlds of Horror Fiction and Illustration form an unholy union and drag the blackened heart of Classic Gothic Horror into modern daylight! In the process, they have sculpted an altogether sleeker, more feral beast.

In the hands of Mary Shelley, Daphne Du Maurier and Shirley Jackson, Gothic Horror explored the bleak shadows of our homes; the darkest corners of the human mind; madness, personal transformation, the occult. IN SOMNIO recasts the legacy of the original Gothmothers in a chilling contemporary light.

Within the walls of an arcane modern art gallery; upon the shores of a hostile but compelling sea; into the blackest burrows of the animal kingdom; tableside at the world’s last restaurant on the eve of the apocalypse; from the deep deep South to a Lovecraftian Steampunk theatre, a cornucopia of disturbing vignettes await you.

Fans of twisted takes on the classics such as Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters; Netflix’s The Haunting of Hill House/Bly Manor; moody, secretive novels like Night Film and A House at the Bottom of the Lake; and traditional Gothic Horror and ghost stories will all find something to chill their bones in IN SOMNIO.

This collection features eighteen vibrant, unique stories ranging from deeply intimate one-room settings to sprawling fantasy worlds; from the depths of darkness to comedy and adventure. Each story brings a new perspective to our inherent love of Gothic Horror and what those vital elements of terror still have to say today.

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Epeolatry Book Review: Jedi Summer by John Boden

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Title: Jedi Summer
Author: John Boden
Genre: Coming of Age Horror
Publisher: Silver Shamrock Publishing
Release Date: 31st August, 2021

Synopsis: A boy and his little brother wander through the loosely stitched summer of 1983. It was a magical one. Full of sun and surrealism, of lessons and loss, and of growing up and figuring it out.

Nestled in the mountains of Pennsylvania is a small town unlike any other. Things are strange here, always have been. People die but hang around, pets too. Everyone knows your name, and sometimes, a thing as simple as a movie coming to the local theatre is all it takes to keep you going.

Jedi Summer follows a pair of brothers one summer as they await the release of the year’s biggest blockbuster movie. Jedi Summer falls into the coming-of-age horror category, a sub-genre that I personally enjoy. According to the author, this work is at least semi-autobiographical. 

Boden does a great job establishing atmosphere. His setting provides a definite sense of time and place, and capitalizes on nostalgic vibes. 

Where the book falls short for this reader is on organization and presentation. Jedi Summer reads like a collection of loosely connected short stories or vignettes. No overarching element connects individual chapters, and certain seemingly interesting and important plot points fade into the background never to resurface again. 

The novel’s emotional climax centers around the passing of the main characters’ father, which lacked strong emotional resonance, since the majority of the story circled the siblings’ relationship to their mother and the difficulties of being raised by a single parent. The father only appears in a few scenes, and the reader never gets a chance to know him. 

The book is a quick and enjoyable read. Disjointedness of the chapters and lack of a central narrative holds it back from receiving a “5”. Despite those minor complaints, I recommend this if you enjoy coming-of-age horror and/or stories that capitalize on nostalgia.

out of 5 ravens.

Available from Amazon.

Epeolatry Book Review: Daughters of Darkness II, ed. Stephanie Ellis & Alyson Faye

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Title: Daughters of Darkness II
Author: Various, ed. Stephanie Ellis & Alyson Faye
Genre: Horror
Publisher: Black Angel Press
Release Date: 1st Oct, 2021

Synopsis: The Daughters are back! This time with a new quartet of women horror writers to thrill and scare you, in the latest anthology, Daughters of Darkness II, from the women-run indie horror press, Black Angel.
Within these shadowed pages you will journey into the depths of the myth-rich Scottish countryside, into the horrors of suburban life, where beneath the skin of Hummingbird Academy true macabreness ferments. You will encounter haunted girls and young men, with dark and deadly secrets, and travel into the Gothic heartlands, culminating in the hell of WW1 and encounter who or what comes home from the trenches.
These are four women horror writers at the top of their game, conjuring stories of quiet, skin-creeping terror.

In the book’s Foreword, Faye and Ellis write that Daughters of Darkness was born of “difficulty in finding suitable outlets for our style of quiet, psychological horror and also the fact that many outstanding female writers just couldn’t seem to break through.” The Daughters of Darkness anthologies are designed specifically to showcase horror written by female authors. Daughters of Darkness II is the second installment, and it did not disappoint. 

The publisher broke down each author into sections. Authors had a certain wordcount, and their contribution varied. This collection included short stories, connected shorts, and novellas. 

First author up—Beverley Lee. I’ve read Lee’s work in the past, and she creeped me out with her sinister and atmospheric piece. Lee has presented us with a collection of four stories. Her lead story, “A Whiteness of Swans” opens her section, and the collection as a whole. By far, one of my favorites in the entire book. 

I had not read anything by Lynn Love prior, so I appreciated the chance to read a new (to me) author. Phenomenal, describes Love’s entry into this book. Each “part” of the story read different enough to feel fresh and interesting, but the connecting thread kept the reader grounded in the story world. Using Jack Sprat and life at home in a large house with an absent family gave the opening section both a fairy tale and gothic feel. By the end, I wondered how the sections would come together, and Love pulled it off with a finale demonstrating her mastery by seamlessly tying up the ending. 

Next up—Catherine McCarthy’s “The Spider and the Stag.” This novella-length tale combined elements of mystery and folk horror. McCarthy masterfully crafted her characters, and they felt like real people. She depicted a grieving widow in such a beautiful and poignant way, and yet somehow still managed to balance the fear, which made the story terrifying.

T.C. Parker is another new (to me) author in this collection. Parker’s entry comes in the form of two connected stories. I liked this approach, and the stories pleasantly surprised me. I preferred the tint of weirdness in the horror of the second tale, but the first did a great job at showing off Parker’s characterization skills. I felt an immediate connection with Jodie that sustained me until the story’s end.

This was an outstanding collection. Very rarely do I love all of the stories in an anthology, but for this one, I can wholeheartedly recommend every tale and author included.

out of 5 ravens.

Available from amazon.

Epeolatry Book Review: Blood & Bone, ed. A.R. Ward

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Title: Blood & Bone: An Anthology of Body Horror by Women and Non-Binary Writers
Author: Various, ed. A.R. Ward
Genre: Horror
Publisher: Ghost Orchid Press
Release Date: 22nd September, 2021

Synopsis: Since the earliest creation myths, womens’ bodies have been a site of conflict, venerated and feared in equal measure. In this collection, talented female and non-binary writers let rip with twenty-two powerful, visceral body horror stories that explore, celebrate and dissect (sometimes literally) femininity and the female experience. The stories traverse difficult and sometimes controversial ground, digging into subjects like eating disorders, the beauty industry, pregnancy, infertility, body dysmorphia, domestic violence, rape and sexual abuse–all done with passion, humour, and creativity. Approach with an open mind and a strong stomach.

According to the website TV Tropes, body horror is horror “involving body parts, parasitism, disfigurement, mutation, or unsettling bodily configuration, not induced by immediate violence,” which may give you an idea for what’s in store within the latest anthology from Ghost Orchid Press, Blood & Bone: An Anthology of Body Horror by Women & Non-Binary Writers. Most of the stories in this anthology hit the above threshold definition of body horror, with few exceptions. 

In the Foreword, Alex Woodroe mentions, “One of the greatest things about body horror is that it’s unlikely anyone reading this anthology right now is doing so by accident. You know what you want.” I have to hand it to Woodroe, going in to this anthology I had expectations for the types of stories that I would encounter, and I wasn’t let down. Being an anthology about both women and bodies, I expected tales of pregnancy, motherhood, self-image, identity, and troubled relationships. This anthology delivered on all of those expectations. 

 “Siphonophore,” by Saoirse Ní Chiaragáin, opened the collection on a high note. The creative use of point of view and beautiful prose took a tale we all know and created something interesting and original. 

Caitlin Marceau’s story, “Gastric,” took on issues of body image and self-esteem and combined them with gaslighting in a heartbreaking story about a woman who is repeatedly told how she should look and feel. 

Another highlight of this collection was Evelyn Freeling’s “What Goes Down, Must Come Up.” Freeling puts a fresh spin on her story with creative use of second person point of view. This story was at turns intense, disgusting, and heartbreaking. 

“Knit, Purl,” by Nicole M. Wolverton was another horrific tale. Very early in the story, I knew the direction the narrative was going to take, but the inevitability of the outcome didn’t detract from my enjoyment. It was a horrifying accident that I couldn’t tear my eyes from. 

The last story I’d like to mention is Nico Bell’s “Written on her Skin.” This story about the way people speak to (and about) women was absolutely stunning.  

This collection is for more than just fans of body horror. This collection speaks to the deeper horrors that women face on a regular basis, just by virtue of being female. While I didn’t enjoy all of the stories equally (as to be expected with any anthology), the stories listed above make reading the book well worth your time. 

out of 5 Ravens.

Available from Amazon.

Epeolatry Book Review: Floaters by Garrett Boatman

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Title: Floaters
Author: Garrett Boatman
Genre: Horror
Publisher: Crystal Lake Publishing
Release Date: 1oth September, 2021

Synopsis: London 1890s. Out of the Thames’ fetid depths the undead rise to feast upon the living. While floaters seek blood, another army takes advantage of the chaos. Boiling out of their rookeries of crime, marauders swarm through London’s affluent neighborhoods looting and burning.

While the beleaguered police and the Queen’s army battle twin plagues—human and inhuman—London’s criminal youth gangs join forces to save their city. Will Tagget, leader of the Lambeth Lads, together with his enemies Bill Drummond of the Drury Lane Gang, bull-necked George Fish of the Elephant and Castle Gang, shillelagh-wielding Dirk Bogart of the New Cut Gang, Quincy Bird of City Road, along with their female counterparts—Lambeth Kate, Queen Jane, New Cut Beth, Razor Lil and Dirty Deidre—set out on an adventure the telling of which might earn a man a lifetime of free drinks. If he lives to tell it.

Will these violent youths be able to put aside their rivalries long enough to get the job done?

The synopsis of this novella promises rival gangs in Victorian London and zombies. The book certainly delivers. The author did his research on the time period, which is evident in the reading. For the most part this is welcome, although at times there was too much history and too little plot. (This coming from someone who studied history in college). For example, in one part of the book, the author lists all of the different gangs present at a meeting. I’m talking a paragraph of them. When introducing characters and during dialogue, the reader is also often given information regarding what gang said character is affiliated with. I get why; the point is that rival gangs who hate each other have come together to fight the more immediate threat of the undead. But it might have been better handled with more subtlety. As it is, I felt hit over the head with this theme repeatedly.

Another minor complaint I have is the sheer number of exclamation points used in internal monologue, though admittedly, this might just be a pet peeve of mine. Additionally, the repetitive use of certain phrases/ideas bothered me. The biggest offender is the phrase “and no mistake.” 

For this reader, the strongest part of this work was the opening chapters where the characters discover the threat and first come together to face it. Boatman captures the time period and the atmosphere well, and the fear is palpable. The author’s style flows well, and even scenes with blood and gore are written in lovely prose.

Recommended for those with special interest in Victorian England, gangs in aforementioned setting, historical fiction, and zombies. Ideally, all of those things combined. 

3 out of 5 ravens

Available from Amazon.

Building Characters Using Direct Characterization

Building Characters Using Direct Characterization

by Holley Cornetto

To many readers, one of the most important aspects of a story is the characters. Characters, after all, are the window through which the reader experiences a story. As readers, we may not always like a character, but a character needs to be interesting enough to captivate our attention and make us want to read on. 

There are two major ways that writers reveal information about character to the reader. These are known as direct characterization and indirect characterization. In this post, I’m going to discuss direct methods of characterization, what these methods convey to readers, and how.

The four direct methods of characterization are dialogue, description, action, and thought. All of these elements demonstrate something about the character to the reader. 

Dialogue
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Epeolatry Book Review: Slattery Falls by Brennan LaFaro

Disclosure:

Our reviews may contain affiliate links. If you purchase something through the links in this article we may receive a small commission or referral fee. This happens without any additional cost to you.

Title: Slattery Falls
Author: Brennan LaFaro
Genre: Horror
Publisher: Silver Shamrock Publishing
Release Date: 20th July, 2021

Synopsis: Travis, Elsie, and Josh, college kids with a ghost-hunting habit, scour New England for the most interesting haunted locales. Their journey eventually leads them to Slattery Falls, a small Massachusetts town living in the shadow of the Weeks House. The former home of the town’s most sinister and feared resident sits empty. At least that’s what the citizens say. It’s all in good fun. But after navigating the strange home, they find the residents couldn’t be more wrong. And now the roles are reversed. The hunters have become the hunted. Something evil refuses to release its grip, forcing the trio into one last adventure.

The style in which this novella is written draws the reader in quickly. It’s conversational, which makes it easy to build a connection with Travis, our narrator. Speaking of characters… Travis, Elise, and Josh are well developed characters with lovely and dynamic relationships. I particularly enjoyed Josh. I recognized the hints toward Asperger’s, and I appreciated that LaFaro included a differently-abled character as a protagonist in this story. 

My one minor complaint about the story revolves around why the antagonist targeted Travis, Elise, and Josh. We are told that together, they are powerful, but never why or what connection they have to Weeks. It must have been important for the antagonist to go out of his way to target them (and to have watched them for so long), but we are left without knowing those reasons. The book would have benefited from more explanation in this regard.

Slattery Falls was a great read with crisp writing, and characters that I’m sure will stick with me. The friendship between Travis and Josh was beautifully written, and their easy banter made me laugh out loud multiple times. I love the novella format in the horror genre. I believe it is a perfect length to keep the reader’s interest, while maximizing tension and storytelling. LaFaro has used this to wonderful effect, and I’m excited to read what he comes out with next. 

4.5 Stars out of 5

Available from Amazon.