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The Monster Librarian Presents:




        In 1987, the Horror Writers Association inaugurated the Bram Stoker Awards to recognize superior achievement in horror writing. The awards were originally presented in six categories: Novel, First Novel, Long Fiction, Short Fiction, Fiction Collection, and Nonfiction. Over the years, HWA's members have voted in additional categories, and in 2012 the Bram Stoker Awards also recognize Young Adult Novel, Graphic Novel, Anthology, Screenplay, and Poetry Collection.

        Any member of HWA may recommend works throughout the year. At the conclusion of each year, the number of recommendations are tallied, and the top works in each category move onto a preliminary ballot. Prior to 2011, all works on the preliminary ballot were determined by membership recommendations; however, 2011 saw the addition of juries for each category. The juries are comprised of volunteer Active members (Active members are professional writers), and they make every attempt to review every work released in their category throughout the year. Now the preliminary ballot consists of the five top member-recommended works in each category, and five jury choices. The HWA's Active members  then vote on the preliminary ballot, choosing three works from the member recommendations and three from the jury choices, and those works comprise the official final ballot.

        The Active members then vote again to select a winner in each category. The winning works are revealed in a gala awards presentation, and are presented with the actual Bram Stoker Award trophy, which is surely one of the most unique in the world - originally designed by Harlan Ellison and sculptor Steven Kirk, the trophy is a haunted house with a door that swings open to reveal the winner's name. The awards presentation takes place in a different city each year, and every other year is presented in conjunction with the World Horror Convention. Recent sites for the awards presentation have included Long Island in New York, Brighton in the U.K., Burbank in California, and Toronto in Canada. In 2012, the awards ceremony will be held in Salt Lake City in Utah. For the first time in 2011, the awards presentation was streamed live to an audience of over 600, and 2012 will again see the ceremony offered in a live streaming presentation (and later archived on YouTube).

        For more information on the Horror Writers Association (including how to join - HWA offers membership levels for all those with an interest in the art of horror) and the Bram Stoker Awards, please visit .

The Horror Writers Association (HWA) is proud to announce that it will again webcast the Bram Stoker Awards™ presentation live in 2012. The Banquet is being held in Salt Lake City and the event will begin live on the internet at 9 p.m. (Mountain Daylight Savings Time) on March 31. The ceremony will take about 1 ½ hours to complete.

The webcast will be presented at:


Stoker Award information by Lisa Morton


We will be reviewing many of the Stoker Final Nominees, keep checking back for additional reviews.


Reviews of the Horror Writers Association Bram Stoker Final Nominees for 2011





A Matrix Of Angels by Christopher Conlon Cosmic Forces by Greg Lamberson Floating Staircase by Ronald Malfi
Flesh Eaters by Joe McKinney Not Fade Away by Gene O’Neill The German by Lee Thomas


Isis Unbound by Allyson Bird Southern Gods by John Hornor Jacobs The Lamplighters by Frazer Lee
The Panama Laugh by Thomas Roche That Which Should Not Be by Brett J. Talley  


Ghosts of Coronado Bay, A Maya Blair Mystery by J. G. Faherty The Screaming Season by Nancy Holder Rotters by Daniel Kraus
Dust and Decay by Jonathan Maberry A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness This Dark Endeavor: The Apprenticeship of Victor Frankenstein by Kenneth Oppel


Anya’s Ghost by Vera Brosgol Locke & Key Volume 4 by Joe Hill Green River Killer by Jeff Jensen
Marvel Universe vs. Wolverine by Jonathan Maberry Baltimore Volume I: The Plague Ships by Mike Mignola and Christopher Golden Neonomicon by Alan Moore


7 Brains by Michael Louis Calvillo “Roots and All” by Brian Hodge “The Colliers’ Venus (1893)” by Caitlin R. Kiernan
Ursa Major by John R. Little Rusting Chickens by Gene O’Neill “The Ballad of Ballard and Sandrine” by Peter Straub


“Her Husband’s Hands” by Adam-Troy Castro (Lightspeed Magazine, October 2011) Herman Wouk Is Still Alive” by Stephen King (The Atlantic Magazine, May 2011) “Hypergraphia” by Ken Lillie-Paetz (The Uninvited, Issue #1)
“Graffiti Sonata” by Gene O’Neill (Dark Discoveries #18) “Home” by George Saunders (The New Yorker Magazine, June 13, 2011) “All You Can Do Is Breathe” by Kaaron Warren (Blood and Other Cravings)


Priest by Cory Goodman (Screen Gems) The Adjustment Bureau by George Nolfi (Universal Pictures) American Horror Story, episode #12: “Afterbirth” by Jessica Sharzer (20th Century Fox Television)
True Blood, episode #44: “Spellbound” by Alan Ball (HBO) The Walking Dead, episode #13: “Pretty Much Dead Already” by Scott M. Gimple (AMC) The Walking Dead, episode #9: “Save the Last One” by Scott M. Gimple (AMC)


Voices: Tales of Horror by Lawrence C. Connolly Red Gloves by Christopher Fowler Two Worlds and In Between: The Best of Caitlin R. Kiernan (Volume One) by Caitlin R. Kiernan
Monsters of L.A. by Lisa Morton The Corn Maiden and Other Nightmares by Joyce Carol Oates Multiplex Fandango by Weston Ochse


NEHW Presents: Epitaphs edited by Tracy L. Carbone Ghosts By Gaslight edited by Jack Dann and Nick Gevers Blood And Other Cravings edited by Ellen Datlow
Supernatural Noir edited by Ellen Datlow Tattered Souls 2 edited by Frank J. Hutton Demons: Encounters with the Devil and his Minions, Fallen Angels and the Possessed edited by John Skipp


Halloween Nation: Behind the Scenes of America’s Fright Night by Lesley Pratt Bannatyne Reflections in a Glass Darkly: Essays on J. Sheridan Le Fanu edited by Gary William Crawford, Jim Rockhill and Brian J. Showers Starve Better by Nick Mamatas
Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Zombies by Matt Mogk The Gothic Imagination by John C. Tibbetts Stephen King: A Literary Companion by Rocky Wood


How to Recognize a Demon Has Become Your Friend by Linda Addison At Louche Ends: Poetry for the Decadent, the Damned & the Absinthe-Minded by Maria Alexander Surrealities by Bruce Boston
Shroud of Night by G. O. Clark The Mad Hattery by Marge Simon Unearthly Delights by Marge Simon







A Matrix of Angels by Christopher Conlon*New Review

2011, Creative Guy Publishing

ISBN:  9781894953719

Available: Hardcover, Paperback, Kindle, PDF


     More than anything else, A Matrix of Angels is the story of an intense friendship between two sixth grade girls. Fran moves into Lucy’s neighborhood in the middle of the school year, and soon the girls are so focused on each other that anything outside their friendship is blurred, at the edges. As Fran and Lucy do homework, read Tiger Beat, eat frozen pizzas, and go joyriding in the neighbor’s van, there turns out to be a lot going on around them- events out of their control. Lucy’s mother is on the run from Lucy’s abusive dad; Fran’s parents are in jail for drug dealing; and a serial killer is torturing and killing girls.

     This story is told in flashbacks from Fran’s point of view thirty years later. Fran, an author of children’s books, is also a divorced, depressed alcoholic who has a troubled relationship with her tween daughter. On a whim, she decides to revisit the town where she spent her sixth grade year, a place and time she has buried in her mind for decades. Her visit there reveals memories of her friendship with Lucy, who was the serial killer’s third and last victim, discovered just after Fran was forced to leave town, and she attempts to revisit the places and people from that time. There’s no mystery- we know who the killer is early on- and little horror in any traditional sense, although the descriptions of the serial killer’s basement and methods are were painful enough to make me wince.

     The real horror in the book is subtle- it’s the horror of everyday life, especially everyday life as a girl. Conlon does an impressive job of capturing the callous behavior of girls in sixth grade, down to the attempts to humiliate outcasts by calling them “lezzies”. Within their friendship, Fran and Lucy feel safe enough to take risks; apart, it’s evident that things are out of their control, and there’s no guarantee of another safe zone. I didn’t feel that the adult Fran was a sympathetic character, and was frustrated that thirty years later, after hundreds of pages, Fran still isn’t able to resolve the feeling that she is alone in the darkness.

    A Matrix of Angels started out as a short story with the same name, and the story is included at the end of the book. The short story takes place completely within the context of Fran and Lucy’s friendship. The writing is much tighter and has a lot more clarity and impact, and the ending is much more satisfying. That’s not to say that there isn’t some excellent writing in the novel, especially in expressing the details of Fran and Lucy’s friendship and the intensity of their emotions, but the ending of the novel was, for me, ultimately unsatisfying. Still, if you want to introduce someone to the horror genre who doesn’t like horror, A Matrix of Angels is an excellent choice. Recommended

          Contains: Violence, language, graphic images

          Reviewed by: Kirsten Kowalewski

We have a second look review by Benajmin Franz: 

A Matrix of Angels is a stand-alone novel from Christopher Conlon and is a Stoker Award Finalist. In this book, we meet Frances Pastan, a children’s book author whose financial success hides a serious mess; she’s divorced, shunned by her daughter and an alcoholic. While people might tell you drinking is cool, getting drunk so often you become addicted to it is not. Frances is heading off for a conference, when she realizes she’s in spitting distance of the small California town called Quiet. Frances spent some time as a child living in Quiet, and there she met her best friend Lucy Sparrow.

Lucy, as we learn, was murdered right before Frances left Quiet, and her death has haunted Frances for all her life. In order to regain control and order, she must go to Quiet, explore the murder and discover if she can find it in herself to confront the likely murderer. This is a wonderful, haunting book. It stays with you long after you read it. Highly recommended for readers who like mysteries, serial killer, or just a plain good ghost story.

Contains: Violence, Profanity, Graphic images.

Reviewed by: Benjamin Franz


Cosmic Forces by Gregory Lamberson*New Review

Medallion Press, 2011

ISBN 978-160542408-8

Available: New paperback


In book three of the Jake Helman Files, Jake is hired by Marla Madigan, wife of New York City’s mayor.  Marla believes her husband is cheating, and she wants Jake to gather evidence so she can use it as leverage for a divorce.  Jake decides to take the case, but what he finds the mayor doing is far worse and much more sinister than just sleeping around. 


When Jake follows the mayor on a weekend retreat to upstate New York, he witnesses a ritual murder and is chased by creatures that could only have been created in a lab by Nicholas Tower, who is now deceased.  It seems the mayor has become part of the Order of Avademe, a group of powerful industrialists who have steered major world events for hundreds of years.  Led by Karlin Reichard, the Order, made up of eight men, worship a powerful being.  In order for Jake to bring them down he must join the Order.  He doesn’t believe Avademe exists until he is visited by an emissary from the Realm of Light, and then one from the Dark Realm.  The Realms are looking for a creature that has been eating souls for centuries.  Somehow this “destroyer of souls” and the Order of Avademe are connected, and Jake must once again deal with the supernatural.


Gregory Lamberson is on a roll with the Jake Helman Files.  Well-written and with excellent pacing, Cosmic Forces is a wild ride of Biblical proportions.  Jake Helman is an engaging character, rough around the edges and on par with Kolchak (from the Night Stalker series).  Lamberson’s storytelling is nice and tight and never predictable.  I was completely surprised when the nature of Avademe was revealed.  Cosmic Forces can stand on its own as a novel but I strongly recommend starting from the beginning, with Personal Demons and then Desperate Souls, so you get a real feel for some of the characters and what Jake Helman is all about.  This is a must-get for fans of paranormal detective stories, and I think most horror fans will enjoy it as well. Recommended.


Contains: violence, adult language and sexual situations


Reviewed by: Colleen Wanglund


Floating Staircase by Ronald Malfi*New Review

Medallion Press, 2011

ISBN: 978-1605424-36-1

Available: New, Used, E-Book


Author Travis Glasgow recently completed a novel titled The Ocean Serene, written as Travis's way of dealing with the death of his brother Kyle, whom he felt he had killed years ago.  Thinking he had put his past behind him, he and his wife, Jodie, move to Westlake, Maryland to be closer to his living brother, Adam.  However, upon arrival to the house, Travis starts noticing strange happenings.  He is hearing noises and seeing strange sights in the basement.  What he witnesses makes him believe that Kyle's spirit has followed him all this way and is trying to tell him something.  Then one day Travis notices another oddity; a staircase, floating in the middle of the lake outside their house.  As Travis's confusion and fears increase, he decides to do an investigation of his own, wondering if there is more to the house than just a ghost from his own past.  Taking his research skills to the local library, he soon discovers that the previous owners of his new house have something in common with him; they also dealt with the death of a drowning boy in their family.  Travis becomes obsessed with finding out as much as he can about the previous owners of his house in order to find out what message the being that has been reaching out to him is trying to get across.


Of all the books I read in 2011, Floating Staircase was at the top of my list!  From start to finish I could not put this book down.  Having not previously read anything by Ronald Malfi I wasn't sure what I was getting into with this one, but I was pleasantly surprised and will definitely be looking up his other reads.  I've always been a fan of ghost stories and this book is definitely that.  In the beginning, Malfi leaves you wondering if maybe Travis Glasgow has gone just a bit crazy over the years due to the blame he had put on himself after his brother's death.  But once he discovers that there is another presence in the house other than what Travis originally thought was his brother's spirit, things really take off.  Mixing elements of both horror and mystery, Malfi has put together a page-turner that, even when finished, leaves you wanting more.  Powerful and chilling, Floating Staircase is one ghost story that horror fans should not miss.  Highly Recommended!


Contains: Adult Language & Adult Situations

Reviewed by: Rhonda Wilson



Not Fade Away by Gene O’Neill*New Review

Eclipse/Bad Moon Books, 2011


Available at

    Nathan McKee is down and out in San Francisco’s Tenderloin district, where he exists on cheap wine and sleeps in a single barren room. As Nathan recovers from a beating by street thugs, he discovers that he can become invisible at night, fading to just a shimmer that blends into the shadows. At first, he has fun with his new talent, stealing donuts, for example. Then he ups the ante by stealing money from a local gambling house. Shortly thereafter, Nathan meets a much-younger woman with similar invisibility talents. Letty is an addict who has made her living as a stripper and a prostitute. Together Nathan and Letty decide to use their abilities to clean up the neighborhood, calling themselves the janitors.

    Nathan encourages Letty to read books from his own stash, particularly books by Nelson Algren, Nathan’s favorite author (and apparently O’Neill’s, since the book overflows with quotations from and dialogues about Algren). O’Neill has Nathan and Letty holding many philosophical discussions about literature, to the point of interfering with the plot. Although Letty is a high-school drop-out, you’d never know it by the level of her language and thought processes during those conversations. When the two are trying to be playful, however, their language switches to more normal levels and is awkwardly riddled with archaic street slang. Nathan also lectures young Letty on the joys of Buddy Holly’s rock ’n’ roll and the importance of B-sides on 45 rpm records. These literary and musical ramblings come across as authorial riffs that have nothing to do with the plot line. Also disruptive are the chapters of flashback that take Nathan back to his days in Viet Nam and even further back to his childhood with his friend, Gracie. Those chapters provide biographic information about Nathan, but they don’t really inform the main plot line. 

    The dialogue between Nathan and Letty is weirdly formal. She constantly calls him, “Pal” and “Mister” and he calls her “Kiddo,” even after they become lovers and move in together. Nathan frequently speaks in a stilted manner (e.g., “The darkness is indeed oppressive.”)  

    Soon enough, Nathan’s theft comes back to haunt him, and bad things begin to happen. In addition, they soon must face the fact that Letty’s invisibility powers are fading. The theme of the book mimics Daniel Keyes’ “Flowers for Algernon” (which is heavily referenced in the book): moving from the depths of despair to the heights of recovery and back to the depths.

     This seems like an elongated short story that has been puffed up to book length. If the literary discussions and flashback chapters were removed, the result would be a novella that could stand on its own. No recommendation.


Reviewed by: Patricia O. Mathews


The German by Lee Thomas*New Review

Lethe Press, 2011
ISBN-13: 978-1590213094

Available: New and Used



Lee Thomas has crafted a novel well worthy of its Stoker nomination for Best Novel of 2011. A talented writer who has proved himself in the trenches time and time again with dark adult fiction (The Dust Of Wonderland, Stained) and YA tales (Mason, and the stunning Wicked Dead series with Stefan Petrucha), Thomas pushes himself into a new level with The German.

Many will find parallels between Thomas and Peter Straub, or even Jack Ketchum, as Thomas’ exquisite prose evokes the raw emotion that propelled The Girl Next Door and Lost Boy, Lost Girl. The brutality displayed within Thomas’ novel is warranted and carries enough emotional weight that readers may wince here or there, but will admire and connect with the characters.

The novel is set during World War II, and illustrates that plenty of horror occurred on American soil while our troops fought overseas.  When two men are murdered, and left with pro-Nazi messages crammed in their mouths, young protagonist Tim Randall seeks out the killer. Across the street lives former Nazi soldier Ernst Lang, who aches for a quiet life away from the bloodshed he left behind. When Tim and his buddy witness Lang and another man in a sexual encounter, they believe him to be the perpetrator of the killings.  Whether it is his sexuality or ethnicity, or both, is up to the reader to find out yet the paranoia fostered by the war and of who to trust when the messages begin to accrue.

Sherriff Rabbitt leads the investigation with morals and logic that the town seems to have lost. He holds the town in check even as it threatens to boil over around him. The trio of lead characters in The German come together to weave a solid tale, and should sway many Stoker voters in this novel’s direction. Each character brings something different to the table, and explores issues that continue to plague society today, without overwhelming the mystery of the murders.

For those readers who prefer their mysteries darker and with great substance, The German will not disappoint. Here’s to hoping that Thomas walks away with a haunted house this spring.


Reviewed by: Dave Simms



That Which Should Not Be by Brett J. Talley*New Review

JournalStone Press, 2011

ISBN 978-1936564149

Available new paperback


When Carter Weston, a student at Miskatonic University, is asked by his professor, Dr. Thayerson, to retrieve a book with a powerful reputation, he has no idea what he was getting himself into.  Weston is sent to the town of Anchorhead during a blizzard to find theIncendium Maleficarum, or Flame of the Witch.  While in a tavern he meets four men, each of whom has a very interesting story to tell.  Jack tells Weston of his encounter with the legendary Wendigo while on a trapping expedition.  Daniel tells of his misadventure in Eastern Europe where he inadvertently stumbled upon a cult of women intent on bringing a demon into this world.  William’s story involves an insane asylum, a professor at Miskatonic University, and a cult trying to unsuccessfully awaken Cthulhu with the Necronomicon. 


It is the fourth man, Captain Grey, who has the book Weston is searching for.  Grey’s story of how he found the book in the first place describes a magic powerful enough to trap Grey’s ship and bring back the dead.  Grey gives up the book willingly but it is only after Weston has brought the book back to the University that he realizes his mistake.  Carter Weston must now stop Thayerson from doing what a former professor at Miskatonic failed to do—awaken Cthulhu.


Winner of JournalStone’s horror novel writing contest, Brett J. Talley has written a wonderful homage to occult horror.  Each of the stories told to our protagonist is unique and scary by itself while adding to the overall atmosphere and theme of the novel as a whole.  Each character is nicely fleshed-out and their individual stories come together beautifully.  With references to Lovecraft, Stoker and even the Bible, That Which Should Not Be reads like the best 19th and early 20th century horror stories about the occult and ancient god-like monsters.  I look forward to reading more by Talley in the future. Highly recommended.


(Full disclosure: I was a judge for JournalStone’s contest and gave this novel high marks)


Contains: Violence, gore and sexual situations


Reviewed by: Colleen Wanglund



Southern Gods by John Horner Jacobs*New Review

Night Shade Books, 2011

ISBN: 978-1597802857

Available: Paperback, Kindle ebook, and audio CD.



      Cthulhu blues? Y'all come right down to Memphis and listen to the insidious songs of Ramblin’ John Hastur to get in touch with your inner demons and let them dance. John Horner Jacobs has created a debut novel that readers will be talking about for years. In recent years, only Deborah Leblanc and Rhodi Hawk have captured the old south so well. Jacobs dives into the swampy atmosphere of Memphis, so thick one can breathe in the humidity and squalor of post World War II Arkansas. 


Bull Ingram survived the war only to serve evil as an enforcer. A gargantuan specimen of duality, he struggles with a goodness within that the war tried to decimate. When a Memphis DJ hires Bull to find a missing man, he jumps at the job. The DJ, who is recording the blues the way it was before the distillation of American music, plays Bull a tune by Hastur, one which fills Bull with rage. Apparently, Hastur’s music can even stir the dead.


Bull embarks on an adventure into the deep Arkansas backwoods, where shades of Lovecraft seep into the pages. Meanwhile, Sarah finds herself back at the family plantation, escaping the abuse of a soldier come home broken into a man she no longer knows. Her remaining family- a dementia-addled mother and a repressed daughter- bring forth the true music of Southern Gods: finding oneself within the hell surrounding it. Bull winds up at Sarah’s home, and like a typical Lovecraftian tale, feeling as if the cosmos designed his every step. Together, he and Sarah seek to end Hastur's reign in the area, to stamp out his evil like spreading virus aching to infect anyone who hears his song.


To say Southern Gods is just a gothic horror novel would do it a huge injustice. Horner has created something much bigger and more important. He delves into the horrors of society and family, paralleling the blight of Hastur. The setting bleeds into the reader's mind and pulls him or her into the author's world. It would be a true disservice to not find Southern Gods carved on a Stoker Award.


Reviewed by: Dave Simms




The Screaming Season by Nancy Holder
*New Review

First Ward Trade Paperback, March 2011

ISBN: 978-1456546861

Available: New and used soft cover and in Nook and Kindle e-book formats.

Nancy Holder’s Possessions series has been an unexpected personal favorite of mine. Her third installment, The Screaming Season, did not fail to disappoint. I wasn’t sure I could possibly enjoy the series anymore than I already did, but I was quite wrong. Of the three books in the series, The Screaming Season is the most intense and action packed, leaving me wide-eyed with a racing heart.

The Possessions series is an incredibly spooky tale full of scorned lovers, murders, attempted murders, ghosts, and of course, possessions.  The Screaming Season is no exception, and Lindsay, our heroine, is back on the Marlwood Academy campus, ready to fight of the ghosts that stalk and possess the campus residents. Her biggest challenge now is trying to maintain her sanity and belief in her sanity by her fellow students and teachers, staying alive in the process.

The Screaming Season, in addition to the first two books series: Possessions and The Evil Within are must-haves for libraries’ young adult fiction collections. While these titles are geared toward young adults, adult readers will find them enjoyable as well with a jump-right-in feel to the action. Recommended for school and public young adult collections; ages 14 and up.

Contains: mild violence     

Reviewed by: Kelly Fann


Ghosts of Coronado Bay by J.G. Faherty*New Review

JournalStone, 2012

ISBN: 978-1936564095

Available:New and Kindle


Ghost stories are tough to pull off in a manner that will entice readers these days. It seems that everything, from zombies to love-driven vampires, has been done to death.


YA fiction has somehow become a wide open market for authors to explore new avenues for these tired tropes.  J.G. Faherty, a talented writer whose fiction has been infecting the pages in the past few years, delivers a young adult novel that surprises in its story and writing.


Teenage outcast Maya Blair has issues at school fitting in (sound familiar?). She has dark tastes, skills in martial arts, has dealings with the supernatural, and is still virtuous (still familiar?).


That's where Faherty turns things on their head and things get weird. Maya sees dead people, but there's a little twist. When ghosts get close to her, they can materialize, as in become solid. Just imagine the possibilities.


The island of Coronado Bay is a strange one, of course, and its museum decides to raise a ship off the ocean floor. That's never a good idea. The Black Lady has a history that is just a little dark and mysterious.


Maya finds herself with the attention of two new boys, Blake and Gavin, and her love life gets a spooky shot in the arm. One of them is out for her best interests, and the other has a much deeper agenda. "It's complicated" takes on a whole new meaning when she falls for both and realizes exactly who and what they are. Before anyone starts thinking this is Twilight material, it's not. Realistic as it can be (ghosts are involved, so accept it), the characters ring true and behave as people do, not as sparkly neck biters.


What drives the story is the cast of characters Faherty surrounds Maya with - they bring out the best in her and push her into new territory. The writing is the best he Faherty has produced yet, and highly worthy of its Stoker nomination. Ghosts of Coronado Bay is a great entry in the YA library for horror or any other genre.


Reviewed by: Dave Simms


 A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness*New Review

Candlewick Press, 2011

ISBN: 9780763655594

Available: New and used, e-book, MP3, and audio-CD form


Ness based this story on the characters and premise of a book that was started by Siobhan Dowd shortly before her death.  His elegant and lyrical telling of a young boy’s excruciating journey into the dark world of grief and loss is enhanced by the wonderful black-and-gray illustrations by Jim Kay. Those dark and eerie drawings seem to enfold the story in an inky cocoon.


As the story opens, 13-year-old Conor O’Malley is having his usual nightmare, which usually comes just moments after midnight. We don’t get the details of this nightmare until the climactic ending.  As Conor gets his terror under control, he hears someone calling his name in a voice that had “a monstrous quality, wild and untamed.” When Conor peers out the window, he sees that the gigantic yew tree in a nearby graveyard has grown exponentially larger and is now standing in his backyard. As he watches, the tree rearranges its branches into the body of a giant. This description is followed by a chilling two-page illustration of the monster as it grabs Conor’s house and shakes it until Conor agrees to hold a conversation. Now, you would expect that Conor would be afraid, but he isn’t, because the tree monster doesn’t hold a candle to the monster of his nightmares. Although the yew tree is surprised at Conor’s calmness, he tells Conor that he has come because Conor called him and that he will tell Conor three stories, after which Conor must tell him the story of his nightmare.


The plot follows Conor as he deals with school bullies during the day and the yew monster’s stories at night, interspersed with scenes with his dying mother, who is nearing the end of her battle with cancer. Conor’s life is further complicated by the fact that his parents are divorced. When Conor’s coldly remote grandmother arrives to help out, his life gets even worse.


Each of the monster’s stories is an ambiguous parable in which characters seem good at first, but are soon proved otherwise. Through the stories, Conor learns that life is complicated and full of contradictions. He learns to admit the truth to himself, even when it’s a truth he doesn’t want to face.


Although Conor’s story is heartbreaking, an element of dark. Ness tells the story simply and straightforwardly, ensuring the reader’s understanding of and empathy for Conor’s emotional conflict.


Unfortunately, this book is not circulating well among the 58 libraries in my system (0-3 circs since October on average), but it might do well on a display that shows off the creepy cover art. Recommended for 12 and up.


Reviewed by: Patricia O. Mathews


Dust & Decay by Jonathan Maberry *New Review

Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2011

ISBN-13: 978-1442402355

Available: New



          Dust & Decay is the second book in a young adult series, and picks up right after Rot & Ruin. Benny and Tom Imura leave the town they once called home, with Nix Riley, Lilah, and Lou Chong, to track down the mysterious jet that they saw at the end of Rot & Ruin.  The boys don’t get far before they find more trouble than they expected, with dangers including wildlife that has escaped from a zoo, the teeming undead, and a new zombie hunter/gang leader named White Bear, who has a score to settle with the Imuras.  


          Maberry has created a welcome niche in young adult zombie books, where zombies still want to devour the living, but also presenting a balancing philosophy about how to treat and deal with the undead.  Maberry keeps the action flowing but also takes the time to continue to develop his characters and their relationships with one another.  It is a delicate balancing act that he does very well.   It is easy to see why the book has ended up being a finalist for the Young Adult category, and  it is a must have for any young adult library collection.  Highly recommended.


Contains: Violence


 This Dark Endeavor by Kenneth Oppel*New Review

Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing, 2011

ISBN: 1442403152

Available: New



        Victor and Konrad Frankenstein are twin brothers and close companions, their life full of adventure.  One day, while exploring, they uncover The Dark Library, full of books on alchemy and “witchcraft.”  Their father forbids them from entering it again; years ago he was responsible for outlawing the practice of alchemy. When Konrad falls ill and the doctor’s efforts seem hopeless, Victor must do something to help. With the aid of his cousin Elizabeth and his best friend, Henry, Victor tracks down a man known to be able to produce the forbidden Elixir of Life. The trio must risk life and limb to obtain the ingredients necessary to create the elixir. This Dark Endeavor is a stunning glimpse behind the motivations of Victor Frankenstein, the man who matures to become the doctor responsible for creating the monster in the classic Frankenstein by Mary Shelley.  While it took me a bit to get into the book, ultimately the portrayal of young Victor Frankenstein is what drew me in.  The reader gets a glimpse of his obsession with alchemy, his love/hate relationship with his brother Konrad, and his fondness of his cousin, Elizabeth. Characterization is strong in this book.  Victor, obviously, is an incredibly headstrong individual, but it was Elizabeth’s character that was truly impressive. She was an incredibly strong individual, a trait I believe young women will appreciate. This Dark Endeavor serves as quite the appealing, and terrifying, prequel to a long honored classic. Recommended.

 Reviewed by: Jennifer Lawrence





Anya's Ghost by Vera Brosgol*New Review
First Second, 2011
ISBN: 1596435526
Availability: New



        Anya is a student at a private school. She’s not proud of her Russian heritage; her family moved to the United States when she was five and Anya has worked quite hard to get rid of her accent.  When introducing herself to others, she often Americanizes her last name, another attempt to escape her heritage. Her mother, on the other hand, wants her to embrace it; she arranged for Anya to attend this specific private school because a Russian boy of the same age was enrolled there. One day, as Anya is walking through the park, she falls into a hole. She meets the ghost of a young girl who died in 1918. The girl, Emily, claims to have been murdered. She’s been hovering over her remains, unable to separate herself from the bones that remain. When Anya is rescued, Emily is able to “escape”, due to one of her bones finding its way into Anya’s backpack. At first, Emily is a welcome relief for Anya. Emily offers Anya the companionship she lacks, even assisting with her school work, social life, and wardrobe.  Soon, however, Emily becomes a bit obsessed with Anya’s life, living it as her own, in a sense. Anya get suspicious, and does a bit of research into Emily’s past, discovering that she isn’t the person she stated she was. Anya must find a way to detach Emily from her life before things get out of hand. Anya’s Ghost is more than jyour average ghost story; it is also a coming of age tale.  Anya is a teen, insecure in her appearance and her identity. She has a curvy body and she’s desperate to fit in with the “in-crowd”. Through Emily, and the experience she has with her, Anya learns to embrace her heritage, her identity, and her being. As this is a graphic novel, the illustrations are important.  Brosgol does a tremendous job detailing the emotion and the “feel” of the book by using gray-scale, not just black and white, to illustrate the story.  Anya’s Ghost is a graphic novel that would appeal to fans of several genres, including mystery and horror, and both adults and teens. How can you resist a book that Neil Gaiman refers to as “A Masterpiece?” Highly recommended.

Reviewed by: Jennifer Lawrence


Marvel Universe vs. Wolverine by Jonathan Maberry*New Review

Marvel, 2011

ISBN: 978-0785156925

Available: New


        Marvel Universe vs. Wolverine starts off the action right away with a news story showing an infected Spiderman eating a defeated Rhino.  Spiderman is quickly captured and brought to the Fatastic Tower where some of the best scientific geniuses in the world try to determine what happened to him and if there is a way to cure him.  Wolverine arrives looking to help out.  It soon becomes evident that Spiderman was not the only one infected; humans, heroes and villains turn into cannibalistic monsters, seeking only to eat the uninfected. An army of the infected, led by one of the most powerful beings on Earth, seeks to kill the scientists to prevent them from discovering a cure, and it is up to Wolverine and a handful of heroes to keep the scientists alive.


          Jonathan Maberry, known for his zombie titles for both adult and young adult readers, offers up a tale that is very similar to the popular Marvel Zombies series; the only difference is that in this story the infected are technically alive (versus the dead zombies of Marvel Zombies). Maberry's story works very well, and in the middle, pairs up two of my favorite Marvel characters, Wolverine and Deadpool. Maberry's story has a down-to-earth feel and is more effective and plausible than the Marvel Zombies titles that had Marvel’s zombified heroes eating Galactus.   


          I highly recommend Marvel Universe vs. Wolverine  for both fans of the Marvel Zombies series and comic book readers and fans of the Wolverine and X-Men movies.  Maberry's solid storytelling shines through and makes this a superior tale and one that fans will eat up.


Reviewed by: Dylan Kowalewski


Baltimore Volume 1: The Plague Ships by Mike Mignola and Christopher Golden, art by Ben Stenbeck*New Review

Dark Horse, 2011

ISBN: 978-1595826732

Available: New

            After a devastating plague ends World War I, Europe is suddenly flooded with vampires. Lord Henry Baltimore, a soldier determined to wipe out the monsters, fights his way through bloody battlefields, ruined plague ships, exploding zeppelins, and submarine graveyards on the hunt for the creature who has become his obsession.


Along with novelist Christopher Golden and artist Ben Stenbeck, Mike Mignola (creator of the Hellboy corner of the Dark Horse Universe) continues to champion his brand of Gothic and Lovecraftian Horror in the four color world of comics. Lord Henry Baltimore is a classic anti-hero, brutal and efficient in his dealings with the undead, and his pulp roots are more than evident. Unfortunately, as a character, there is little depth to be found in Baltimore (or in the supporting cast, for that matter), but this may owe more to those aforementioned roots than anything else. I do get the sense that this is the story that they wanted to tell and in just the way they wanted to tell it. The artwork is serviceable at best, often uneven and sometimes downright confusing and murky. The colors are bold and striking, Spartan in their use, but with tremendous impact. For all its faults, The Plague Ships is a fun story, with plenty of action and intrigue, and recommended for fans of the genre. As an attractive hardcover, The Plague Ships would make a fine addition to any and all libraries, both personal and public.

Reviewed by: Bob Freeman





Ursa Major by John R. Little*New Review

Bad Moon Books, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-9832211-8-0

Available: New and used


When Dan takes his girlfriend's daughter, Nichole, on a camping trip, he hopes that it will bring them closer together. Dan loves Nichole and her mother, and wants Nichole to love him back. What was meant to be a relaxing weekend in a remote cabin, though, becomes a fight for survival when a ravenous force of nature relentlessly pursues Dan and Nichole, never letting up, never backing down.


John R. Little should be a household name, and Ursa Major is a perfect example why. With as much (if not more) character development and suspense as stories three times its size, Ursa Major packs some serious punch. Little doesn't waste words, and he doesn't waste any time getting to the action. We meet Dan and Nichole, get to know them a bit (and Little really shines here, creating real people with real motivations, in just a few pages), and, with no warning, Little throws them into the deep end.


I find it difficult to talk about a shorter story such as this, for fear of giving something away; that would be a disservice to potential readers. Ursa Major should be experienced with fresh eyes and no expectations. I can say that Little builds tension like a master, ratcheting up the suspense, until things explode.


The only downside is that $15.00 seems a lot for 64 pages of story (76 pages when you include the very entertaining introduction by Gene O'Neill and Gord Rollo). But, I still highly recommened Ursa Major for any library collection and for all fans of great writing.


Contains: Strong language and graphic violence.


Reviewed by: Erik Smith



Rusting Chickens by Gene O’Neill*New Review

Dark Regions Press, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-937128-16-6

Available: New This edition is limited to 125 signed copies.


Rob McKenna, serving as a top secret black ops Marine, experienced pain, suffering, and the horrors of war firsthand. Rob’s survival of a secret Marine recon mission in Pakistan left him a shattered and broken man. Now a civilian, Rob is in and out of the hospital, receiving treatments for a gunshot wound to his head from his time in Pakistan. As time progresses, the fractures of his personality and mental state deepen. Rob begins seeing things: insurgents spying on the house, and his wife’s artistic metal sculptures changing positions and locations throughout the yard. Is it all the prescription drugs he’s taking or is his wife messing with his head?


O’Neill’s language juxtaposes beautiful artistic imagery with the maladies of war. He subtly explores the horrors of war for military men and women and their families both during and after the fighting is over. As the story progresses, O’Neill  uses flashbacks from the present day to Rob’s time in Pakistan effectively, keeping the reader on edge as we attempt to determine if Rob is mentally broken, or if the metal sculptures really are coming to life.


I will admit that I gravitated toward this novella purely for the title, and I knew I’d be in for a treat with Gene O’Neill at the helm, as he never fails to deliver a truly interesting and unique story. I was not at all disappointed. Rusting Chickens is an incredibly unique novella easily read in a single sitting.

Contains: n/a


Recommended for public library horror collections.


Reviewed by: Kelly Fann





“Home,” by George Saunders*New Review


Short story in The New Yorker, June 13, 2011

(available in the magazine’s archives with print subscription)


In this story, Saunders perfectly mixes absurd humor and disquieting darkness. If this were a piano composition, the right hand would be playing “Louie, Louie” while the left hand pounded out the theme from Jaws.


Mike, a veteran of an unnamed Middle Eastern war, arrives home to find many disorienting changes in his family’s lives. On the surface, life in Mike’s small town is filled with ludicrous small talk that masks the fact that Ma is being evicted, Rene is being suffocated by her in-laws, Joy is desperate to succeed in her new marriage, and everyone is worried sick about what Mike will do now that he’s home from the war. As the story advances, we learn that Mike was involved in some kind of unspecified wartime violence that resulted in a court martial for someone, probably Mike’s soldier buddies (and perhaps Mike).


The dialogue between Ma and Harris, her ludicrous old blowhard of a boyfriend, is hilarious, as is the constant chatter of the nouveau riche in-laws of Mike’s sister, Rene. Their riff on bringing Russian orphan babies to the U.S. is worthy of a scene in a TV sitcom.


As Mike steps carefully through his first day home, he is greeted time and time again by people who say mechanically, “Thank you for your service,” without a clue as to what that “service” actually entailed. At one point, he is thanked by two young clerks who aren’t even sure which war he served in: “Aren’t there two,” says one boy. “Didn’t they just call one off?” says the other.


The story’s tone shifts from loony humor to tense anxiety as Mike’s family tries to maintain a pretense of calm, and Mike attempts to curb his deep-down feelings of rage. He thinks, “lately…a plan would start flowing directly down to my hands and feet…My face would get hot and I’d feel sort of like, Go, go, go.” So far, he’s been able to abort those “plans” before too much damage has been done. When Mike meets two ex-soldiers, he finally makes a human connection, but he’s so afraid that they’ll ask him about what he did in the war that he turns away from them.


The ambiguous ending finds all of Mike’s family members waiting for him on the porch. When he first sees them, Mike’s first thought is to kill them all. By the time he reaches them, though, he’s thinking, “O.K., O.K., you sent me, now bring me back. Find some way to bring me back…or you are the sorriest bunch…the world has ever known.”


This is a complex and moving story that demonstrates the consequences of sending young men and women off to war with absolutely no understanding of how their lives will be forever changed. Saunders’s representation of the connection between humor and tragedy is exemplary.


Reviewed by: Patricia O. Mathews



“Herman Wouk Is Still Alive,” by Stephen King

Short story in The Atlantic, May 2011

Available on-line:


When Brenda hits the lottery, she and her friend Jasmine take a road trip with their seven kids. This could be a take-off on the Thelma and Louise movie if it weren’t for the fact that these “are the fat women nobody wants to see,” and “they have a litter of children between them.” Although Brenda’s life is filled with color in the form of Disney movies, Fisher-Price toys, and Orange Driver brandy, her emotional life is solidly gray.

Phil and Pauline, two elderly poets, are traveling to a college poetry reading, and they’ve stopped at a rest stop for a convenience-store picnic. In contrast to the women, Phil and Pauline’s physical life is gray—gray hair, beige food—but their emotional lives are filled with the color that comes from their imagery-filled words. The poets read a newspaper article about 94-year-old Herman Wouk in which he says, “The ideas don’t stop just because one is old. The body weakens, but the words never do,” which could be Phil and Pauline’s life motto. They look back on their younger selves with fond nostalgia, but they’re not depressed about the future. Pauline reflects that “you take what you can and are happy to get it.”

The story alternates between the couples. As the women’s van speeds faster and faster, Brenda swallows down cheap brandy, Shrek blares in the back seat. She ponders her children’s futures and realizes that their lives will be even worse than her own.

The inevitability of the ending still comes as a shock, as the poets watch the red van careen off the highway into a tree. Pauline watches in horror as, “the windshield disintegrates; glass pebbles sparkle for a moment in the sun and she thinks—blasphemously—beautiful!”

King wrote this story because he lost a sports bet with his son, who provided the title, which King paired with a newspaper article about an automobile accident. In an interview, King explained that he wanted to contrast the lives of two intellectuals who use the language of poetry “to exalt the human experience’” with two lives that are “the absolute opposite of poetry.” Some Atlantic readers accused King of creating stereotypical characters, to which he responded, “These are people I’ve known and worked with all my life….Those who want to meet my ladies need only to come to Bangor.”

This is a dark and powerful story that uses the intellectual gentleness of the poets to underscore the bleak existence of the women. King is particularly successful in assaulting the reader’s emotions with his finely drawn picture of Brenda’s sad life as it stretches into a bleak and, ultimately, unbearable future. In the end, we understand why Brenda did what she did, but we desperately want to grab the wheel and get her some help.



The Atlantic (July/August 2011): King’s response to letters to the editor about his story:


James Parker’s interview with King (4/12/11):


Reviewed by: Patricia O. Mathews




Monsters of L.A. by Lisa Morton*New Review

Bad Moon Books, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-9837799-3-3

Available: New


        In Monsters of L.A., Lisa Morton takes twenty “monsters” (some more known than others) and adds her own spin on their stories based on her experiences in Los Angeles.  For example, this collection starts off with a very well-known monster, Frankenstein.  However, Morton’s Frankenstein doesn’t come with bolts in the side of his head, but rather is a Vietnam vet that suffered a lot of physical ailments in his past that involved him being pieced back together, and earning him the name “Frank” from a lot of people.  At the end of this collection of stories, Morton details a bit about who/what influenced the stories she wrote in this book and the story behind Frankenstein, in particular, is very touching.


    Additional stories in this collection that I truly loved I’ll list below, in no particular order, with a brief description:


    “Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde” – Dr. Jekyll in this story is in the process of creating a new method for gender reassignment, but instead of testing it out on animals, decides to test it out on herself with some adverse effects.  She isn’t aware at first of what all goes on after she injects herself, but soon learns.


    “Dracula” – Dracula is an actor in this story and doesn’t get along so well with his co-star, Eddie, which leads to some major tension.  Not only was this story fun, but it also made me groan out loud!  I won’t say why and give things away, but if you read this story you will definitely figure it out!


    “The Killer Clown” – With my fear of clowns, I was dreading getting to this story in the collection.  As expected, it made me even more afraid of clowns, as the girl in the story is practically terrorized by numerous clowns while at a liquor store.


    These are just a few examples of the amazing contents of this book.  I am typically not a fan of short stories, but Morton has made me second guess myself on this opinion with her stand-out collection.  Do yourself a favor and check out this Stoker-nominated collection! Highly recommended for all library collections.


Contains:  Adult Language & Adult Situations


Reviewed by: Rhonda Wilson


The Corn Maiden and Other Nightmares: Novellas and Stories of Unspeakable Dread, by Joyce Carol Oates*New Review

The Mysterious Press, 2011

ISBN: 978-0802126023

Available: New and used hardcover, CD-audiobook, and e-book format


Oates is at her excruciating, stomach-churning best in this collection of seven dark and violent tales filled with psychological and physical horror.


In the title novella, we watch, horrified, as Jude, a mentally unbalanced eighth grade girl, kidnaps Marissa, a pretty blonde special-needs classmate, intending to use her as the centerpiece in a ritual sacrifice to the Corn Maiden of a Native American culture with which she is mostly unfamiliar. Oates places the reader deep into the minds of the leading characters: the hysterical, guilt-ridden single mother who didn’t come straight home from work on that fateful evening; the frightened school teacher who is accused of the kidnapping; and Jude herself, coping with her bitterly unhappy life by encouraging her inner monster. The mother’s interior monologues are particularly compelling as she worries frantically about her daughter, but also fears the societal blame that accompanies her own life-style choices.


Several stories feature disturbed children, some of whom become even more deviant as adults. The little girl in “Nobody Knows My Name” deals with her anger in a truly frightening manner when her position as the sole focus of her parents’ attention is appropriated by her infant brother. In “Beersheba,” a young woman gets her revenge on the narrator—Brad, her alcoholic, pedophilic stepfather. Her initial phone call to her victim is so creepy that it’s hard to keep reading. You want to tap Brad on the shoulder and warn him off.


Two stories—“Fossil Figures” and “Death Cup”—feature sets of twins, both depraved, but in different ways. In both stories, a “good” brother and an “evil” brother grow up into inversely distorted adults.


In “Helping Hands,” a widow gets more than she bargained for when she befriends a worker in a charity thrift shop.


In “A Hole in the Head,” Dr. Brede, a mediocre plastic surgeon, succumbs to pressure from one of his affluent patients (vain women of a certain age) and attempts a mythical surgery that ends horribly for everyone involved.


Oates has a gift for characterization, making her protagonists intensely believable, even in the face of their unbearably gruesome actions. She perfectly captures the shaky mental states of her protagonists. We can imagine the sweat dripping from Dr. Brede’s forehead as he lifts his bloody drill one last time. We can feel the vein throbbing in Lyle’s forehead as he prepares what he believes to be his brother’s last meal. Oates also excels at setting the mood with just a few deft words: “Snow swirling like sticky clumps of mucus out of a sheet-metal sky.” Recommended.


Contains: Scenes of torture and gore, but not much graphic detail.


Reviewed by: Patricia O. Mathews







Supernatural Noir edited by Ellen Datlow*New Review

Dark Horse, 2011

ISBN: 978-1595825469

Available: New


Uber-anthologist Ellen Datlow continues her winning streak by assembling a diverse collection of noir-themed tales from some of the finest voices in modern fiction, including Joe R. Lansdale, Caitlin R. Kiernan, Nick Mamatas, and Jeffrey Ford. That's not to say that all the stories work. As in any anthology there are hits and misses, but Supernatural Noir is never dull. In a word, this anthology is surreal. Highlights for me were Laird Barron's The Carrion Gods in Their Heaven, Lee Thomas' Comfortable in Her Skin, and, the pick of the litter, Dreamer of the Day by Nick Mamatas.


Mamatas writes with a sublime confidence, effortlessly pacing out his tale slowly and surely, but with an almost David Lynch-like clarity of purpose. It is like a dream that lulls you into the world he's created, where a magical dreamweaver converses with a wounded soap opera actress. In the end, there's an emotional connection, not so much by what is said, but by what isn't. For writers, this is a master's class in surreal narrative.


Supernatural Noir delivers on many levels. As stated, even the stories that don't quite work offer much. A fine anthology recommended to lovers of non-linear and quirky storytelling and of noir in general.

Reviewed by:  Bob Freeman


Epitaphs: The Journal of the New England Horror Writers edited by Tracy L. Carbone*New Review

Shroud Publishing, 2011

ISBN: 978-0982727591

Available: New and Kindle


The world of anthologies is so massive, weighted down by mediocrity, and riddled with tired themes that the truly good ones are tough to find nowadays.  Of course, one can always count on Ellen Datlow or Horror Library to knock out a solid, if not spectacular, collection of strong horror tales.


The New England Horror Writers and Shroud Publishing released this anthology at AnthoCon this past fall.  Epitaphs brings together a wide range of dark fiction (23 short stories and 3 poems). The crew within these pages carries with them a burden, a legacy of sorts.  The region is home to two of the biggest names in the history of the horror genre, H.P. Lovecraft and Stephen King. The writing group is vast and holds with it the allure of the region; many other current heavyweights still reside there, two of whom (Christopher Golden and Rick Hautala) have strong entries here, although they are reprints. Both authors are so talented, it would have been great to see something new, but again, anything by them is a treat to read.


After living in the area for a couple of years, this reviewer can attest to the allure of the macabre just by breathing in the chill of the upper Atlantic breeze, even in the deepest of summer months, or by visiting a quiet fishing town or tucked away hamlet in the White Mountains.  It doesn’t seem difficult to uncover a darkened part of a writer’s soul in these or other northern realms, but this collection is still a pleasant surprise and for the most part, the stories are strong. Rather than tackle each one individually, here are the highlights.


The top three tales are “Not An Ulcer” by John Goodrich, “Make a Choice” by John M. McIlveen, and “Holiday House” by L.L. Soares.  McIlveen has been gaining steam as of late and should be read.  Soares’ tale further cements him as one of the stronger new writers in the region. Goodrich is new to this reviewer but definitely worth checking out.  Horror poetry isn’t easy to pull off effectively, meaning as to chill, but Newton’s “A Case of the Quiets” works as well as the form can.


This is the inaugural collection for the NEHW.  Here’s to hoping they continue to grow and churn out more scares in the future.

Reviewed by: Dave Simms


Ghosts by Gaslight edited by Jack Dann and Nick Gevers*New Review

HarperCollins, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-06-199971-0

Available: New and used


As fog crawls along the cobbled streets, and steam powered machines clank about, something unnatural goes bump in the night.


Ghosts By Gaslight is a collection of 17 classic, and not so classic, Victorian ghost stories. From spirit-powered automatons to steam-powered therapy; from typical Edwardian streets to a bizarre fantasy world, the authors in this collection have crafted frightening tales, written in a haunting, gothic style. Some standout stories include:


"The Curious Case of the Moondawn Daffodils Murder" by Garth Nix. This story features two of my favorite new characters, Sir Magnus Holmes and Almost-Doctor Susan Shrike.


They work well together, solving mysteries that would baffle Sherlock. I really hope to read more stories with these two.


"The Unbearable Proximity of Mr. Dunn's Balloons" by John Langan. When you are dying painfully, is there too high a price, for a little peace?


"Bad Thoughts and the Mechanism" by Richard Harland. New therapy, for troubled people, doesn't mean better therapy, as the characters in this tale discover.


"Blackwood's Baby" by Laird Barron. The world's greatest hunters are not prepared for what they face at the Black Ram Lodge.


"The Summer Palace" by Jeffrey Ford. Even a fantasy world can be haunted by vengeful spirits.


The steampunk genre seems to be enjoying a wave of popularity, which is why, I assume, the word is featured on both the front and back covers of this collection. I am a fan of steampunk, which is why I chose to read this collection. That being said, I feel that only a few of the stories herein are steampunk stories. All of the stories are worth reading; just don't expect robots and ray guns mixed with the ghosts and gaslights in every story.


I recommend Ghosts By Gaslight for library collections and fans of classic ghost stories, alike.


Contains: Violence, and plenty of chilling scenes


Reviewed by: Erik Smith




Tattered Souls 2 edited by Frank J. Hutton*New Review

Cutting Block Press, 2011

ISBN: 9781461080817

Available: New



            I reviewed the first book in this series, and, while the first book was not a perfect collection, it was a great introduction to several authors I had never heard of before. I was very excited by a novella in the first book that I thought should have been a stand-alone novel, and have followed and looked for the work of its author, Matt Wallace ever since reading it. That is an exciting function of an anthology such as this one: introducing us to authors we have not already found, usually by including stories by new authors in with those of well-known authors.

            Tattered Souls 2 seems to be focused mainly on newer authors, as I had only heard of Forrest Aguirre before reading this book. I found Aguirre's story to be the strongest of the collection. His story, “The Arch: Conjecture of Cities”, was somewhat Lovecraftian, not in the tired mythos tropes but in the way the story unfolded.

            The book opens with a Phillip K. Dick-inspired dark science fiction tale called “Yellow Called and Mom Was There”, by Tim Burke. Most of the stories are on the longer scale, coming close to novella-length. This worked in Aguirre's story, but made a few of the stories, such as Stephanie Shaw's “Mademoiselle Guignol”, drag. A few of the stories could have benefited from being shorter.

Tattered Souls 2 is a great concept, and should be supported for bringing new authors to the table. I think the first book did a better job, but I can tell you I will read the third when it comes around. Libraries with a focus on horror in their collection should have this for sure. Recommended.

Reviewed by: David Agranoff







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