Tuesday, October 31, 2023

Two great horror books I reviewed in October 2023

The Only Safe Place Left is the Dark

by Warren Wagner

Published by Ghoulish Books on August 29, 2023
Cover Art by Aidan Mayner

Adult, gay, intense, zombie apocalypse, gore, 5/5.

A fairly short, emotional rollercoaster. The story at novella-length made me crave longer exploration of the content, but it is a solid and complete read that doesn’t leave you hanging, though it might leave you in shreds. It tears the protagonist down, frustratingly so considering the journey they just went through, but in the end there's a solid push at hope that worked to bring the story full circle. Another glimmer somewhere in the middle when lovers get together was especially touching, too, and a necessary breather between wading neck-deep through death. Plays on the zombie trope with zombies that are more vocal about wanting to die, and an interesting mirror to the protagonist longing for what he lost and his inability to really engage with life as is beyond mere survival and hiding, not thriving.

Bloody and grotesque, heart-wrenching and hard, this is a must-read novella I highly recommend.

I thank the author, publisher, and BookSirens for the advance review copy I received for free, and I am voluntarily providing this review.


Warren Wagner's website: https://linktr.ee/warrenwagner

Purchase at the Ghoulish website: https://ghoulish.rip/product/the-only-safe-place-left-is-the-dark/

My review on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/5876615840


Frost Bite

by Angela Sylvaine

Published by Dark Matter INK on October 10, 2023
Cover Art by Eric Hibbeler

Comic b-grade horror, gore, prairie dogs, fast fun read, 3/5.

Fast-paced comedy horror chock-full of references to 80s-90s movies, music and culture. The nostalgia lover in me was fully appeased. This even had a solid freaking radio playlist at the end: We're All Gonna Die HOT-25.

I did love the friendship of the main characters, as well as the quick flow of the story. Easy popcorn read. Highly recommend it for that.

On the other hand, while the pace is great, this is really straightforward prose, which I personally found wanting. I am generally a lover of prose that goes deeper, so this sometimes felt too generic for me overall. Many readers will likely love it though, and certainly serves the forward momentum.

And for one more bit of criticism, I will say that sometimes the humor fell flat for me, and I went c'mon, really, ugh… but then, I mean that was part of the B-movie cheese that this glorifies so you kind of have to just roll with that.

Still, a good deal of the over-the top horror and silliness did grab me and kept me loving the ride, so I am totally on board for the next installment.

Oh, and isn't that cover art just awesome!

My thanks to the author, publisher, and Book Sirens, for the advance review copy I received for free, and I am voluntarily providing this review.


Angela Sylvaine's website: https://angelasylvaine.com/

Purchase at the Dark Matter INK website: https://darkmattermagazine.shop/products/frost-bite

My review on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/5876615403

Eric Hibbeler's website: https://erichibbeler.com/

Thursday, September 21, 2023

Intense collection of eco-fiction both terrifying and wonderfully inspiring

Cover for You Are My Sunshine and Other Stories by Octavia Cade
I just read an intense collection of eco-fiction stories and wrote up a review. I gave a 5 out of 5 because it was freaking brilliant.

You Are My Sunshine and Other Stories

by Octavia Cade

Published by Stelliform Press on September 21, 2023

Short story collection, Eco-fiction (both really dark and really positive)

Adult (contains lots of death and graphic depictions of violence, including loss of limbs)

* Highly recommended for the range of stories dealing with our environment and how we can better adapt to and connect with the world we live in. *

18 stories by Octavia Cade collected in here. According to the story credits in the back of the book, at least 15 of them were previously published in various magazines and anthologies between 2013 to 2022. I'd experienced a few before, so I knew I was in for a real treat reading this one through.

I really enjoyed how the stories were organized. The themes and interests of the stories flowed beautifully together. Some of the stories spoke to each other well, dancing along the ideas of sunshine, environment having its revenge, and adapting to the world to create something deeply beautiful and sustainable.

Everything within is climate fiction of some sort, though it certainly shows Cade's range in considering the topic. Readers are presented an interesting mash-up of dark and frightening with hopeful and wonderfully alive. Do be warned, a few of the opening stories are not afraid to dip into horror, while others, especially towards the second half of the book are overjoyed to be more well-adjusted solarpunk, hopepunk, and/or completely joyous. You have stories with a constant barrage of death and sadness, limbs being cut off, bears devouring us, lots of death. The title story of course, which matches well with this book's excellent cover, opens with a severed arm in a mailbox with a brief apology note. Among the most intense of stories presented herein. And the first story is all about the bears and fears in an apocalyptic future: "We feed them pieces of ourselves. Sacrificial offerings, to make them go away. Sometimes it even works."

But then you have these stories full of so much love and brilliant adaptation to a world that's been broken, Gregor Samsa's sister making up for her disgust by helping children prepare to not be disgusted by all the insects we need to live closely with; a relationship breaking finds rejuvenation through the restoration of underwater passages and fish and eels; the unreal and fantastic treatment of making rivers people, after we have giving corporations recognition as a person, and considering what that leads to; the wonderful search for a species the protagonist adores.

"And if I spend most of my time underground, now, with the eels and with the fish… it's because things seem more hopeful here. Witnessing the restoration of a species in real time rejuvenates my faith in the restoration of other things." This story surprised me by how touched I felt by the end.

"A river was never just water; a mountain never just rocks and snow. They were systems as much as we were. So we made our landmarks people, and then we made ourselves--all of ourselves--believe it." This kind of idea is returned to in several stories, and done so well. An idea that needs to be applied by our governments and communities more.

Even the treatment of death can be rather refreshing, sometimes with the most simple of lines that punch you in the gut after what you've read:

"The kids asked if the grief was worth it.

I told them that it was."

I honestly could not pick out a favorite story. By the end, I adored every single one. But I am the kind of reader that dives in for both the darkness and the light. Perfect for me.

I'll be reading these again. And I hope you do, too. There's so much substance. There's so much to think about. There's so much our communities need to consider in adapting to the world around us.

Thank you Stelliform Press and BookSirens for providing me an advance review copy for free. I am happy to provide this honest review voluntarily. I’ll keep my eyes open for more from this publisher.

Final rating: 5/5 stars. So much depth. So much beautiful writing. So intense.

*The cover art for this is absolutely gorgeous. It's by Rachel Yu Lobbenberg who also won the Best Cover Art from the Aurora Awards for her work on Arboreality (also published by Stelliform Press). 


Octavia Cade's website: https://ojcade.com/

Purchase at the Stelliform Press website: https://www.stelliform.press/index.php/product/you-are-my-sunshine-and-other-stories-by-octavia-cade/

Purchase at Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/You-Are-Sunshine-Other-Stories/dp/1778092640/

Purchase at Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/you-are-my-sunshine-and-other-stories-octavia-cade/1143428706

My review on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/5858671076

Sunday, March 5, 2023

Book Review: Nocean by Efa

Vol. 1. Atari and Tika
by Efa
Hello! I just read a fun eco-friendly positive dystopian graphic novel that I wrote up a review on. I gave a 3 out of 5, not a bad read, though not super deep. I'd give it a try if you like the sound of it from my review below:

Nocean by Efa
Published by Europe Books on February 22, 2023 by Europe Books

Graphic Novel, Eco-fiction, Dystopia
Young Adult (probably suits 10-15 year old best)
* Recommend for the positive friendship between the two young female main characters, and the grandmother's restaurant. *

Loved the colors used for the artwork. The details of her home interior and Iaia’s restaurant were especially nice. The positive friendship and motivation to make change engaged me, though overall left me wanting more. I would’ve liked more time spent on character development than with the plot, though I understand the need to keep a forward momentum for pacing purposes. Even so, Atari and Tika are great characters.

For those who enjoy dystopian stories, this was a decent read. Nothing that new in terms of plot and worldbuilding: dystopian city/government, oceans destroyed, and terrorists groups fighting the evil government while some common kids who have lost parents are stuck in the middle. That’s all pretty cliche and doesn’t move much past it. That said, the main character has some tech skills and the friend she makes is pretty awesome, nice design there, so that pulled me along.

I’ll likely purchase a copy for my daughters (around late elementary school to junior high school age), and would recommend it for around that age on into high school. Fun Robin Hood sister duo. The story overall lands with a pretty decent messaging in terms of doing the right thing and being wary of negative influences. While, thankfully, this volume was satisfying on its own, I am interested to see what the author does with volume 2.

Thank you Europe Comics and NetGalley for providing me the opportunity to read this in exchange for an honest review. I’ll keep my eyes open for more.

Final rating: 3/5 stars. Loved the Atari and Tika friendship and the colors; wanted more character depth and less of the basic plot.


Purchase on Amazon: https://amzn.to/41M5faI

Efa (Author/Illustrator) on Europe Comics Website: https://www.europecomics.com/author/efa/

My review on Goodreads: https://bit.ly/3IRkkPt

My review on NetGalley: https://www.netgalley.com/book/281740/review/390962