Author: Mario Guslandi

Epeolatry Book Review: The Jewish Book of Horror, ed. Josh Schlossberg

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Title: The Jewish Book of Horror
Author: Various, ed. Josh Schlossberg
Genre: Horror
Publisher: Denver Horror Collective
Release Date: October 2nd, 2021

Synopsis: Horror is part of the human condition, but few peoples across the ages know it quite like the Jews.

From slavery to pogroms to the Holocaust to antisemitism, the “Chosen People” have not only endured hell on Earth, they’ve risen above it to share their stories with the world.

Whether it’s pirate rabbis or demon-slaying Bible queens, concentration camp vampires or beloved, fearless bubbies, THE JEWISH BOOK OF HORROR offers you twenty-two dark tales about the culture, history, and folklore of the Jewish people.

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Epeolatry Book Review: Lady in White, ed. LCW Allingham

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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: Lady in White
Author: Various, ed. LCW Allingham
Genre: Ghost Fiction
Publisher: Freeze Time Media
Release Date: 29th September, 2021

Synopsis: A woman walks on the side of the road. She wears a white dress and is known by many names: the Ghostly Hitchhiker. The Phantom Prom Date. The Woman in White. She may accept a ride, but she disappears before she ever reaches her destination.
Is she an apparition? A memory? Or something beyond our understanding? Five authors offer their speculations on her story – of love, loss, and redemption.
Rumors of a ghostly hitchhiker draws a woman back to her hometown twenty years after the death of her sister, revealing bonds and betrayals buried under years of grief.
A fresh start for a mourning widower turns into a hunt for the truth about an old tragedy, and a match made beyond the grave.
Confusion clouds the awakening of a young bride, frightened by memories she doesn’t understand in a world she doesn’t recognize, and a duty she has tried to forget.
A heartbroken musician struggles to stay afloat during COVID-19 lockdown, and discovers a love song that unites two souls.
Two women, separated by ages, connect across the veil of time, allowing hope to grow from despair, and a desperate but bright will to tether itself into a better world.
Watch the roads and be prepared, for though these stories are utter speculations, the lady in white still looks for a ride, somewhere on the other side.

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Epeolatry Book Review: October Nights by Kevin Lucia

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Title: October Nights
Author: Kevin Lucia
Genre: Horror
Publisher: Crystal Lake Publishing
Release Date: 22nd October, 2021

Synopsis: This Halloween…
On a night when anything seems possible…
We dare you to spend an evening in the small town of Clifton Heights.
October nights here are long and strange, filled with both dread and transformation, and in these four shared-world tales of small-town Halloween horror, you’ll encounter things both wondrous and terrifying, in equal measure:

– A priest hears a ghostly confession on Halloween night which will mark him forever.
– A young man is offered a supernatural chance to remake his fortune, at the risk of losing everything.
– A pastor fleeing the death of his daughter comes to Clifton Heights to face his fears, but finds himself living a nightmare instead.
– Two people with supernatural talents face-off with an engine of darkness and pain on Halloween night.

Four connected Halloween tales, evoking echoes of Ray Bradbury and Charles L. Grant, taking place in a town where every day is All Hallow’s Eve.

Proudly represented by Crystal Lake Publishing—Tales from the Darkest Depths.

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Epeolatry Book Review: From the Neck Up and Other Stories by Aliya Whiteley

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Title: From the Neck Up and Other Stories
Author: Aliya Whiteley
Genre: Sci-Fi, Fantasy
Publisher: Titan Books
Release Date: Sept 14th, 2021

Synopsis: The new collection of beautiful, strange and disarming short stories from the award-winning author of The Beauty, Clarke Award nominee The Loosening Skin and The Arrival of Missives, Aliya Whiteley. In 16 stories Whiteley deftly unpeels the strangeness of everyday life through beguiling gardens, rebellious bodies and journeys across familiar worlds, with her trademark wit and compassion. 

Witness the future of farming in a new Ice Age, or the artist bringing life to glass; the many-eyed monsters we carry and the secret cities inside our bodies; the alien invasion through our language to the Chantress and her twists on the fairy tale. Fascinating and always unexpected, Whiteley is unlike any other writer working today.

A prolific novelist, shortlisted for various fantasy and SF Awards, Aliya Whiteley is a writer very hard to classify and totally unpredictable, as clearly demonstrated by this collection of short stories. She’s certainly endowed with a powerful, versatile imagination able to produce dark stories, often in a surrealistic vein. Fine examples are “Many-eyed Monsters” a bizarre, enjoyable tale where little monsters  expelled by human bodies try to attach themselves to their skin.

 “Three Love Letters From an Unrepeatable Garden” is about a delicate flower with a mesmerizing smell which must be kept inside a glass box to save it from wilting and dying.

“Corwick Grows” is a perceptive but puzzling story told by a man laying in a hospital bed, while

”Blessings Erupt” is an offbeat piece featuring a woman removing cancers from sick people by sucking them out and eating them.

The best stories, perhaps, are “Loves of the Long Dead”, a splendid, quite original dark fable  taking the reader on a wild ride from ancient Egypt across the centuries. “Reflection, Refraction, Dispersion” is a strange story about a paranormal phenomenon affecting the lives of a young woman and her father.

A “different” collection by a “different”, gifted author.

 out of 5 ravens

Available from Amazon and Bookshop.

Epeolatry Book Review: When Things Get Dark edited by Ellen Datlow

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Title: When Things Get Dark
Editor: Ellen Datlow
Genre: Horror
Publisher: Titan Books
Release Date: October 12, 2021

Synopsis: A chilling anthology in tribute to the genius of Shirley Jackson, collecting today’s best horror writers. Featuring Joyce Carol Oates, Josh Malerman, Paul Tremblay, Richard Kadrey, Stephen Graham Jones, Elizabeth Hand and more.
  

A collection of new and exclusive short stories inspired by, and in tribute to, Shirley Jackson.

Shirley Jackson is a seminal writer of horror and mystery fiction, whose legacy resonates globally today. Chilling, human, poignant and strange, her stories have inspired a generation of writers and readers.

This anthology, edited by legendary horror editor Ellen Datlow, will bring together today’s leading horror writers to offer their own personal tribute to the work of Shirley Jackson.

Featuring Joyce Carol Oates, Josh Malerman, Carmen Maria Machado, Paul Tremblay, Richard Kadrey, Stephen Graham Jones, Elizabeth Hand, Kelly Link, Cassandra Khaw, Karen Heuler, Benjamin Percy, John Langan, Laird Barron, Jeffrey Ford, M. Rickert, Seanan McGuire, Gemma Files, and Genevieve Valentine.

Shirley Jackson ,one of the more famous and influential authors of the twentieth century, is the inspiration for the latest anthology edited by distinguished, widely known editor Ellen Datlow.

The volume assembles eighteen brand new storie penned by writers attempting to recreate,somehow, the atmospheres and the themes of Jackson’s fictional work.

 

I won’t pretend to be so well acquainted with that author’s body of work, to be able to detect echoes of her stories and novels in each tale featured in the present book. Thus I will simply judge these new stories as they are on the basis of their intrinsic value.

 

Here’s my personal list of favorites.

 

For Sale by Owner” by Elizabeth Hand is an excellent, perceptive story revolving around an empty cabin in the woods, where three women decide to spend a night, while Karen Heuler’s

 

Money of the Dead” is an off beat tale where dead people are called back by their relatives or friends only to disappoint and hurt their callers.

 

Take Me, I Am Free” by Joyce Carol Oates is a very short, quite disturbing piece about the difficult relationship between a mother and her little girl. The last line will give you the creeps.

 

The strong, vivid “ Hag” by Benjamin Percy takes place in a forsaken island surrounded by a voracious sea demanding human nourishment, while the quite enjoyable “A Trip to Paris” by Richard Kadrey portrays an apparently nice lady hiding terrible secrets.

 

In “Refinery Road” by the prolific Stephen Graham Jones past family tragedies return to haunt the present, and in the superb “ The Door in the Fence” by the always dependable Jeffrey Ford an old woman undergoes an astonishing transformation due to the tainted water from  her garden.

 

To me the highlight of the volume is the absolutely outstanding “Skinder’s Veil” by Kelly Link, a mesmerizing,unforgettable sort of long, dark fable.

 

Other contributors are : M. Rickert, Seanan McGuire, Carmen Maria Machado, Cassandra Khaw, John Langan, Paul Tremblay, Gemma Files, Josh Malerman, Genevieve Valentine, Laird Barron.

In short, another great anthology assembled by Ellen Datlow.

Available from  Bookshop and Amazon.

Epeolatry Book Review: Dark Hearts: Tales of Twisted Love, ed. A.R. Ward

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Title: Dark Hearts: Tales of Twisted Love
Author: Various, ed. A.R. Ward
Genre: Horror
Publisher: Ghost Orchid Press
Release Date: 24th March, 2021

Synopsis: Heartbreak. Obsession. Grief. Jealousy. Love can turn tainted, even cruel. Dark Hearts: Tales of Twisted Love is a collection of twenty horrifying stories about love turned sinister. These established and debut authors aren’t afraid to examine difficult subjects, or dip into the darker recesses of human emotion, in stories that are original, unexpected, and thought-provoking.

Contributors:Adam Down, Allison Floyd, Andrew Joseph White, Antonia Ward, Ashley Van Elswyk, Caitlin Marceau, Cara Mast, C.M. Lowry, Emma Kathryn, Jelena Dunato, Jenna Junior, Joshua Robinson, Julie Sevens, Kelly Piner, Lindz McLeod, Matias Travieso-Diaz,Meg Sipos, Paige Johnson, Shannon Scott, Simone le Roux

This hefty anthology starts with a quotation by Neil Gaiman “Have  you ever been in love? Horrible, isn’t it?”, which sets the tone for the following twenty stories, collected by editor AR Ward and illustrated by Ashley Van Elswick, apt to demonstrate the many faces of love. Or,to be precise, of twisted love.

Love is a feeling, a passion, which can take horrible routes, from cruelty to madness, from betrayal to murder, from degradation to violence, from stalking to vengeance, from obsession to death.

The various aspects of deviant love have been covered by the following authors: Kelly Piner, Lindz McLeod, Meg Sipos, Ashley Van Elswyk, Paige Johnson, Shannon Scott, Adam Down, Joshua Robinson, Antonia Rachel Ward, Matias Traviezo-Diaz, Caitlin Marceau, Simone leRoux, Cara Mast, Jenna Junior, Emma Kathryn, CM Lowry, Jelena Dunato, Julie Sevens, Andrew Joseph White and Allyson Floyd.

Commenting upon each story is an impossible task, so I will focus on the contributions which seem more accomplished to me. Alhough the book doesn’t include any actual masterpieces, the average quality is good enough and the following stories are, in my opinion, the best ones.

“Fade into You” by Meg Sipos is a body horror tale that investigats the hidden needs in a sex relationship. “Bumped” by Shannon Scott is an offbeat piece featuring a young woman simulating a non-existent pregnancy.

Antonia Rachel Ward contributes “Lilac Wine”, a rather predictable, yet engrossing tale of seduction and death. Matias Travieso-Diaz provides “Rosalba”, a gentle ghost story about jealousy and murder.

In Emma Kathryn’s “Sister Smoke” we meet another kind of ghost, that of a burned woman, playing a role in the attempt of a girl to find a new life by getting rid of his former husband.

The best story in the volume is perhaps “The Bloom” by Jenna Junior, the insightful analysis of a woman’s attraction for another woman and her final vengeance for being used but not loved.

I was not familiar with most of the authors featured in this anthology, but I’m going to keep an eye on some of the above names and on their next work.

 

3 /5 stars

Available from  Amazon and Bookshop.

Epeolatry Book Review: Spawn: Weird Horror Tales about Pregnancy, Birth and Babies, ed. Deborah Sheldon

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Title: Spawn: Weird Horror Tales about Pregnancy, Birth and Babies
Author: Various, ed. Deborah Sheldon
Genre: Horror
Publisher: IFWG Publishing International
Release Date: 3rd May, 2021

Synopsis: A selection of the darkest Australian fiction. Spawn: Weird Horror Tales About Pregnancy, Birth and Babies taps into anxieties, painful memories, and nightmares. Here, your worst fears come true. Penned by established authors and fresh new voices, these stories range from the gothic and phantasmagorical, through the demonic and supernatural, to the dystopian and sci-fi. Prepare for a visceral, frightening read. Featuring work by: Geraldine Borella, Jack Dann, Rebecca De Visser, Jason Fischer, Rebecca Fraser, Gary Kemble, David Kuraria, Paul Mannering, Tracie McBride, Samantha Murray, Robyn O’Sullivan, Antoinette Rydyr, Deborah Sheldon, Charles Spiteri, H.K. Stubbs, Matt Tighe, J.M. Merryt, Kat Pekin, Mark Towse, Ash Tudor, Kaaron Warren, Janeen Webb, and Sean Williams.

I haven’t had many opportunities in recent years to get acquainted with the work of Australian horror writers, whose names (with the exception of editor Deborah Sheldon, Jack Dann, Kaaron Warren, and Sean Williams, who are among the contributors to the present anthology) are mostly unknown to me. Which is a shame because, as this book proves, there are many Australian authors deserving a wider recognition beyond their country’s borders.

The volume collects twenty-three stories addressing the unusual theme in a variety of angles, atmospheres, and tones. Commenting upon each single tale is clearly impossible, hence I will mention the ones which seem the more accomplished.

“A Good Big Brother” by Matt Tighe is a tense, apocalyptic story where people are transformed by a mysterious disease, and a young boy must learn how to protect his mother and his baby brother. 

“The Still Warm” by Paul Mannering is a powerful example of graphic horror portraying the horrible fate of a pregnant woman surviving a hanging and finding herself buried alive inside a coffin.

The unsettling “Beneath the Cliffs of Darknoon Bay” by Rebecca Fraser takes place in the lonesome atmosphere of a lighthouse and depicts how the sheer madness of a pregnant woman gets tragically loose.

Robyn O’ Sullivan’s “Expel the Darkness” is the vivid description of an ill-fated pregnancy ending with a terrifying labor at home, while Deborah Sheldon’s “Hair and Teeth” is a disquieting tale of medical horror featuring a woman with uterine troubles.

In the well-crafted “Mother Diamond” by Janeen Webb a woman is haunted in many ways by the spirit of her late, domineering mother.

Charles Spiteri contributes “The Remarkable Compass for Finding the Departed”, a gentle, sad but disturbing tale revolving around a restless stillborn child, while JM Merryt pens “Gravid”, a dark, subtly unnerving fairy tale (contrary to what the narrator declares…)

All in all, an interesting anthology of horror fiction, graced by some little gems apt to effectively entertain and disquiet the reader.

4/5 stars

Available from  Amazon.