Review: Indian Burial Ground by Nick Medina

Indian Burial GroundIndian Burial Ground by Nick Medina
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars rounded up**

After reading Nick Medina’s story, Quantam, in the Indigenous Dark Fiction Anthology, Never Whistle at Night, I knew I needed to pick up more of his work.

It was one of my favorites of that collection. I loved his storytelling style and couldn’t wait to be immersed in another one of his creative tales.

In this story, we follow two perspectives: Noemi and Louie. Noemi provides us with a Contemporary Mystery. While Louie, Noemi’s Uncle, delivers us a beautifully-executed Coming of Age Horror element.

In present day, Noemi’s boyfriend, Roddy, dies suddenly and tragically. There’s a lot of mystery surrounding his death, but the authorities categorize it as a suicide. That doesn’t track for Noemi though, who feels like something more sinister may be at play upon their tribal lands.

Just prior to receiving this tragic news, Noemi’s Uncle Louie shows up on her doorstep, in town for an upcoming powwow. After more than a decade away, it’s a bit of an awkward reunion, but soon enough Uncle and Niece are bonding just like old times.

When Louie hears the news of Roddy’s mysterious death, it brings to mind for him some very dark memories, all of which occurred in the Summer when he was 16-years old.

We alter back and forth between Noemi, taking us through the current events, and Louie recounting what happened on the reservation, all those years ago.

Medina wastes no time jumping into the intrigue of this story. The very start is fascinating, as we get a glimpse into the events surrounding Roddy’s death.

I was immediately impressed with the writing. IMO, Medina just has a natural storyteller’s voice. The way he delivered this story, specifically the sections from Louie’s perspective, felt like Louie was speaking his story directly to me.

You forget that you are reading a book. It feels that fluid, and comes across as an actual person would tell the story of their life, versus an author trying to impress you with all the big words they know…

This is exactly the type of writing that I like to read!

It was fascinating to go back and forth between the two perspectives. I couldn’t see right away how Louie’s past was going to help Noemi understand her present, and I loved how Medina ultimately wove the two together.

The Coming of Age aspect was the highlight for me, but I think as a genre blend, this worked together so well.

The Horror imagery itself was very well-crafted. There were some truly unsettling moments. Things that gave me downright chills. It was never difficult picturing exactly what was happening to these characters.

I loved the examination of the real life horrors, as well. Particularly in regards to addiction, which really is its own vampire in a way, isn’t it?

Additionally, the family drama and other events occurring on the reservation brought a heavy emotional component to the story. This one definitely moved me and the ending hit me like a punch to the gut.

Ultimately, Louie’s story will live on, rent free in my heart forever, and ever, Amen. This is a special book.

A slow burn mix of Indigenous Horror with a powerful Coming of Age story; what’s not to love about that? The themes explored and rich quality of storytelling are impressive to say the least.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Berkley, for providing me with a copy to read and review.

This is for sure on my Most Memorable List for 2024!!!

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Review: I Was a Teenage Slasher by Stephen Graham Jones

I Was a Teenage SlasherI Was a Teenage Slasher by Stephen Graham Jones
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

In 1989, Tolly Driver was an average 17-year old boy, just living his life in his small West Texas hometown of Lamesa.

He’s a good kid, who mostly keeps his nose clean, helping his Mom at her hardware store, and spending time with his best friend ((crush)), Amber. All it took was one crazy Summer night to change everything…

This book is presented in a sort of confessional style. It’s Tolly writing about that summer, about the events that occurred, relaying them and also reflecting upon them. He’s addressing Amber, so it feels genuine and personal.

I connected with this one from the very first pages. I love how SGJ chose to present Tolly’s story. It’s much more than a Slasher. It’s a Coming of Age tale from the perspective of a killer. A Slasher with a twist.

Reading this, it feels like a personal story for SGJ. Not the murdery-bits of course, but the sense of place, the experience of being a teenager in West Texas in the 1980s and everything that went with that.

Honestly, it felt so rich with heart, emotion and nostalgia. I’m not sure what it is, whether it’s because SGJ and I came up around the same time, both in small towns and probably with a lot of similar interests, or if it’s just the humanity channeled into his stories, but they hit me differently.

Maybe it’s as simple as our mutual love of this nuanced genre of Horror; Slashers in particular, I don’t know, but there’s something special in his delivery that takes me right back to my youth. I feel it.

I’ve never read anything like this. It’s special. I absolutely loved it. There’s only so much you can say about a book you loved without diving off the deep end into fangirl territory.

Stephen Graham Jones is one of my favorite authors. Out of the 8-books of his that I have read so far, the lowest rating I have ever given is a 4-star, and it was just the one.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot since I finished this, and I actually think this is my favorite SGJ work EVER!

For those of you crying yourself to sleep every night ((like I was)) because you just finished the last book in The Angel of Indian Lake trilogy, have NO FEAR, this one will fulfill your darkest Slasher desires and then some.

I’m so excited for this to release this Summer so that I can add a hard copy to my shelves. I can’t wait to read it again. Tolly is a character I will never forget.

I would recommend this to any Horror Reader. It’s a perfect Summer Scream story. My heart slowly shattered over the course of this novel, but it simultaneously made me ridiculously happy. I want everyone to feel that.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Saga Press, for providing me with a copy to read and review. This was one of my most anticipated releases of the year and it far exceeded even my lofty expectations.

Stephen Graham Jones is such a gifted storyteller, who truly breaths life into his characters with the power of his words. His stories are edgy, raw, emotional, powerful and nostalgic. I’ll never stop coming back for more.

10-out-of-10 recommend!!

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Review: In the Scrape by James Newman and Mark Steensland

In the ScrapeIn the Scrape by James Newman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

In the Scrape is a 2019-Coming of Age Horror novella co-authored by James Newman and Mark Steensland.

James Newman is one of my faves, so when I was gifted an ARC-copy, I was super stoked. Then like a huge jerk, I never got around to it…

As I was considering what to pick up this past Halloween week, this gorgeous Autumnal cover popped into my mind. Now is the time.

In hindsight, I’m irked I had this 5-star read sitting on my Kindle for years. How did I not pay this story the attention it deserves? Hopefully this review will be an impetus for some of you to pick it up. That would help my guilt.

In this story we follow two young brothers, Jake and Matthew. The boys live with their abusive father and dream of nothing but escape. Their plan is to make their way to California, where they can be reunited with the mother they miss terribly.

We are told the story by Jake, who is 13-years old at the time the events take place. He gives us the details of the family dynamic and takes us through the days leading up to their planned escape.

The boys have been very strategic about it, saving money and waiting until the right time. Even during the worst of the abuse, they stay focused on their plan. They see an upcoming family hunting trip as the perfect opportunity.

Unfortunately, just prior to the trip, Jake has a bloody altercation with his arch-nemesis, which not only puts a damper on the funds he was hoping to save, but also brings local law enforcement sniffing around.

Nevertheless, their Dad is determined to make it out to their cabin for the first day of deer season, so off they go. Little does he know that first night is going to find him tied to a chair as his boys forge their escape.

Dad is a beast though, will the boys be able to subdue him enough to actually get away? What if he catches them? Who will survive the night?

This is such an incredible story. I loved it. I immediately could tell this was a Newman; I adore his writing. I’ve never read from Mark Steensland before, but I trust if Newman is working with him, he’s nothing short of brilliant.

Coming of Age is a subgenre of Horror that I tend to vibe with really well. I know when some people think of Horror books, they think, scary books, things that scare me, and then if they don’t get scared by a book, they say, this isn’t Horror.

For me, Horror is a more nuanced genre than that and thinking only books that literally scare you can be classified as Horror is simplifying the genre unfairly.

I’ve mentioned this before in other reviews, but this story did such a great job of channeling all of the essential vibes of the subgenre, that I felt it was worth repeating here.

This basically transported me into the lives of these two boys while they were living through what could arguably be the most pivotal year of their childhoods.

In addition to the superb writing, it made me feel so much. By the halfway point, I was commenting how it was breaking my heart. I could feel the pain and desperation of these boys.

The brother’s relationship was beautifully done. I could feel the love between them and the push and pull that made that relationship as special as it was. Given their circumstances, it was clear that they were beyond lucky to have one another.

I also loved how the authors continued to build the tension throughout the story as the end approached. They pulled me in, made me 100% committed to the characters and then got my pulse racing with my sights set on the conclusion.

I would absolutely recommend this to anyone who enjoys Coming of Age Horror, or to anyone who is looking to try the subgenre for the first time.

I mean, Coming of Age Horror novellas really don’t get much better than this. These authors knocked this out of the park. They made me love Jake and Matthew with my whole heart. In short, this filled my soul.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Silver Shamrock Publishing, for providing me with a copy to read and review.

My only regret is that it took me so long to get to it.

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Review: Looking Glass Sound by Catriona Ward

Looking Glass SoundLooking Glass Sound by Catriona Ward
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Looking Glass Sound is the latest release from one of my favorite voices in the Horror space, Catriona Ward. I respect her work so much and feel she brings her own unique brand to my favorite genre.

This was one of my most anticipated releases of 2023 and damn, was it impressive.

I went into this novel without knowing too much about it and I’m glad that was the case. It was exciting watching it unfold without having many preconceived notions.

I knew it was set in Maine, my home state, and involved a writer, but that was about it. I recommend you go into it not knowing much more than that.

I’m not sure I can adequately describe my time with this story, it’s just something you need to experience yourself. It’s definitely a bit of a mindf*ck; pardon the expression.

I can’t wait to read it again someday. I think upon reread, I could end up enjoying it even more. Ward is too smart and honesty, I’m in awe of her brain. I’m probably going to dream about this one for a while…

This delivered such beautiful Coming of Age Horror story vibes initially, it hooked me from the start. Eventually, it evolves into something a little more. It’s Coming of Age Plus.

Honestly, there are so many different elements contained within this story that are cause to celebrate.

For me, one of the highlights was the different types of relationships explored and the characters were all so well done. I did listen to the audiobook and recommend that format as the narration style fit the characters fantastically.

I don’t want to say too much more about the actual story, I think you can tell from my reaction that I really enjoyed it. You may be wondering though, with all the accolades, why I didn’t give it a full 5-star rating.

I guess I would just say that in the second half, I did find some of the perspective jumps and overall narrative shifts a little hard to track. There were moments I felt I should have been having an a-ha revelation and I was having more of a head-scratching marathon trying to connect the dots.

I would absolutely read it again though, as mentioned above. I think I would pick up more the second time through and may end up enjoying it even more. There’s definitely a lot of details I would like to revisit knowing what I know now; aka. having read the end.

I would definitely recommend this to anyone who enjoys, well, a literary mindf*ck, featuring great atmosphere and nuanced characters.

Also, this is a must for Coming of Age Horror lovers, or Readers who enjoy a book-within-a-book.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Tor Nightfire and Macmillan Audio, for providing me with copies to read and review. I’m very excited to see what other people think of this one!

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Review: Wasps in the Ice Cream by Tim McGregor

Wasps in the Ice CreamWasps in the Ice Cream by Tim McGregor
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

🐝🍦🐝🍦🐝🍦🐝🍦🐝🍦🐝🍦🐝🍦🐝🍦🐝

Wasps in the Ice Cream is a captivating Coming of Age Horror novella that quickly reminded me why I love this subgenre.

It’s the Summer of 1987 and Mark Prewitt spends his time working at the local ice cream shop, avoiding his parents, tinkering on his dream car and engaging in miscellaneous hijinks with his best buds.

When the other boys stage a prank on the mysterious Farrow sisters, it goes too far and one of them gets hurt. Mark is riddled with guilt after the fact. He should have stopped it, but he didn’t.

Seeking to make amends with the girls, he ends up befriending the middle sister, George.

She’s unlike anyone he has ever known and he’s drawn to her like wasps to ice cream. The more time he spends with George, the less time he has for everyone else.

Mark finds himself keeping a lot of secrets, but he should have known in a town this small, it was bound to blow up in his face. What happens when you fall for the girl everyone hates? Mark is about to find out.

Spoiler Alert: It’s not good.

Y’all, I really enjoyed my time with this story. I know when some people think of Horror books, they think, scary books, things that scare me, and then if they don’t get scared by a book, they say, this isn’t Horror.

For me, Horror is a much more nuanced genre than that and thinking only books that literally scare you can be classified as Horror is simplifying the genre unfairly.

A good example of this is one of my fave subgenres of Horror, the Coming of Age story. Wasps in the Ice Cream is a perfect example, channeling all of the essential vibes. This basically transported me back to the Summer of 1987.

Coming of Age always hits home for me. Literally nothing could be happening and I still find myself so invested.

There’s something about the innocence and feeling of possibility in viewing the world through that lens. The emotional traumas and challenges the protagonists have experienced up to this point in their lives only scratch the surface of what the world will ultimately dish out for them. It’s such a special time. Nostalgia for days.

Also, it’s in the presentation. You generally have an Adult narrator, who is reflecting back on some pivotal moment in their life. Something that impacted them so deeply, it helped to shape the adults they became; good or bad.

There also tends to be powerful friendships and the exploration of sexuality. All of this is mixed together with deeper things that scare us; sometimes supernatural, sometimes not.

I felt McGregor did an amazing job telling Mark’s story. It felt so authentic. I believed everything I was being told and understood how the events of this Summer shaped Mark’s future, choices, wants and desires.

I would definitely recommend this to anyone who enjoys an engaging Coming of Age Horror story. If you are just looking for scares though, you’d be best looking somewhere else.

Thank you so much to the publisher, RDS Audio, for providing me with a copy to read and review. The audiobook is fantastic. The narrator truly captured Mark’s character. Well done!

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Review: Black Mouth by Ronald Malfi

Black MouthBlack Mouth by Ronald Malfi
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Jamie Warren left Sutton’s Quay, West Virginia, as soon as he was old enough, unfortunately leaving his disabled brother, Dennis, behind.

Jamie was running from a lot of things, but no matter where he goes or how much time passes, the memories of his traumatic childhood continue to haunt him.

When he receives a call that his Mother has passed, he has mixed feelings. In spite of Jamie’s complicated relationship with his Mom, he knows he has to go back.

The property will need to be dealt with. Dennis can’t do it himself, so Black Mouth here he comes.

Upon returning to the family farmhouse, Jamie is shocked by the state of it. He can’t believe that his brother and mother had been living in these conditions.

Additionally, his brother has been picked up by the police. Dennis had been walking along the highway, clearly distressed. Sadly, that’s how they’re reunited.

While all this is happening, states away, Jamie’s best friends from childhood, Mia and Clay, are also experiencing things that are drawing their attention back to Black Mouth; the name of the area on the outskirts of Sutton’s Quay where they all grew up.

The trio are pulled back into each other’s lives like moths to a flame, and like many close friends, once they’re back together it’s like no time has passed at all.

Together with Dennis, the three begin to investigate a mysterious man who had a huge impact on their lives all those years ago.

A man who lived in the woods and showed them magical and disturbing things.

Through past and present perspectives you’re drawn into an exceptionally twisted story with horrors great and small. Everything about this was mesmerizing to me. The writing is lush, the imagery is distinct and the atmosphere is intense.

Black Mouth took me for a ride and ultimately left me with tears in my eyes, wondering how long it would be before I read it again. It’s that good.

I’m so glad I preordered a copy of this because I need it gracing my shelves. The story is incredibly detailed and I’m sure there are little things that I missed as I rushed towards the conclusion. It will be an absolute joy to revisit.

There are so many aspects that I loved about this book, but first and foremost would be the phenomenal quality of the storytelling. It’s delicious.

As a King Constant Reader, I couldn’t help but notice things that reminded me of some of my favorite King works. I don’t know anything about Ronald Malfi, but just for me, I liked having all these little reminders of King’s work.

I honestly don’t know if any of it was intentional, like if it was a doffing of the cap, but I sort of hope it was. All the elements brought together was magic for my mind.

Without saying too much, it was in the details, like Dennis reminding me of Duddits, Mia’s name, the carnival vibe, a group of outcast kids fighting evil, even some of the supernatural aspects reminding me of the Bill Hodges trilogy.

Please note, I am not saying this in a negative way. I hope I am explaining myself appropriately. I don’t intend any shade toward Malfi by making these comparisons. I was beyond impressed by Come with Me, my favorite book of 2021, and over the moon excited about this one.

I highly, highly, highly recommend this story for fans of coming of age horror novels. This is absolutely exceptional.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Titan Books and Tantor Audio, for providing me with copies to read and review. This could potentially end up as my favorite book of 2022. It’s certainly in the lead for now!

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Review: Scream All Night by Derek Milman

Scream All NightScream All Night by Derek Milman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When Dario Heyward receives a phone call from his older brother, Oren, inviting him to return to the home he fled three years ago, he is filled with trepidation.

Moldavia, the iconic castle that was Dario’s family home, also serves as the set, studio and home for the cast and crew of Moldavia Studios.

His father, the studio’s enigmatic director, is in poor health and apparently, there will be some mysterious, over-the-top ceremony to honor him and his first film, The Curse of the Mummy’s Tongue.

After being legally emancipated from his father, Dario has been living in the Keenan Group Home, where he has been steadily gaining in confidence and autonomy.

While he’s concerned about returning to Moldavia, he feels like he can finally face all that happened to him there. He needs that closure. Additionally, he’d love to see Hayley again, his childhood friend and crush.

At Moldavia, it seems to be life as usual. People buzzing around everywhere, working on strange projects. The whole scene like some sort of morbid hotel with quirky characters and equally zany props.

At the ceremony, true to his father’s normal drama, something horrifying occurs with disastorous consequences. Just like that, Dario is sucked back into Moldavia, and the life he thought he left behind. Now he needs to try to help save the floundering family business.

Scream All Night was a delightful surprise. A heartfelt, coming-of-age story for true Horror fans.

I loved the whole idea behind Moldavia Studios. The setting at the castle had such a vibe, macabre and eerie, made even more haunting by Dario’s early-childhood experiences there.

While this story does include some fairly heavy topics, including the abuse and neglect that Dario suffered while living with his family, as well as the death of a family friend, there was also a great amount of humor incorporated.

Milman had me laughing quite a bit. I loved his witty, sarcastic, dry humor and the way Dario thought about and processed the world around him. Dario is such a compelling character, one that is very easy to get behind and support.

Overall, I was really impressed with this. I fell in love with Dario and the setting of Moldavia. The tone and humor were creative and the storyline captivating throughout.

I definitely plan to pick up more from this author!

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