October 17, 2018

Kali Wallace: "Shallow Graves"

Title: Shallow Graves [on Amazon | on Goodreads]
Series: None
Author: Kali Wallace [Site | Goodreads]
Genres: Afterlife, Supernatural, Horror
Year: 2016
Age: 14+
Stars: 5/5
Pros: Strong, complex lead. Engrossing undead coming-of-age story, unpredictable and full of compassion. Unapologetically feminist. Blissfully devoid of romance.
Cons: The darkness is not tempered by humour or comedy, so it might not be everyone's cup of tea.
WARNING! Gore, tension and some disturbing images.
Will appeal to: Horror/supernatural fans who like well-rounded, morally grey characters.

Blurb: Breezy remembers leaving the party: the warm, wet grass under her feet, her cheek still stinging from a slap to her face. But when she wakes up, scared and pulling dirt from her mouth, a year has passed and she can’t explain how. Nor can she explain the man lying at her grave, dead from her touch, or why her heartbeat comes and goes. She doesn’t remember who killed her or why. All she knows is that she’s somehow conscious - and not only that, she’s able to sense who around her is hiding a murderous past. Haunted by happy memories from her life, Breezy sets out to find answers in the gritty, threatening world to which she now belongs - where killers hide in plain sight, and a sinister cult is hunting for strange creatures like her. What she discovers is at once empowering, redemptive, and dangerous. (Goodreads)

Review: SORT-OF DISCLAIMER: I have a strong bias toward books where the main character is dead or undead. Then again, I've read a few that fared under the 3-star mark for me, so you can probably trust my judgement 😉.


Shallow Graves is one of those books that creep on you. The story in itself, though interesting and punctuated by intense moments, is not its strongest suit - the main lead and the overall concept are. In an interview, the author mentioned the TV show Supernatural as a source of inspiration, but not in the same vein as Anna Dressed in Blood was clearly ripped off from influenced by it. Basically, she asked herself: "But what if all those monsters getting hunted don’t want to be monsters?" and in response wrote a book from the monster(s) perspective, also exploring (via the main character) the forever-shifting boundaries between the once-human and the monster itself. Mind you - among this particular cast of characters, Breezy is the only one who used to be human. But compared with the "normal" people who chase them and claim to "help" them using violence and abuse, all while having their own secret agenda, even monsters have redeeming qualities. [...]

October 10, 2018

Troy H. Gardner et al.: "13 Tales to Give You Night Terrors"

Title: 13 Tales to Give You Night Terrors [on Amazon | on Goodreads]
Series: None
Author: Troy H. Gardner et al. [Site | Goodreads]
Genres: Horror, Supernatural, Afterlife
Year: 2015
Age: 16+ (it's more of an adult book, but it can be read by mature teens, though a few stories are a bit heavy on horror)
Stars: 4/5
Pros: Revisits old horror tropes in a fresh way. Most stories are cunningly contrived, often with a nice twist.
Cons: Some of the tales have a surrealistic feel that may not be everybody's cup of tea.
Will appeal to: Readers who like both straight-up horror (though not of the extreme variety) and creepy atmospheres.

Blurb: Murder, mayhem, maniacs...Journey with us into the dark heart of horror as authors from around the globe reveal their deepest fears. We meet a pair of twins with a sick sense of humor, a troubled family tormented by ghosts, and a man who keeps a chupacabra as a pet. Plus a department store massacre, a terrifying costumed stalker, and much, much more. (Amazon excerpt)

Review: First off...DISCLAIMER: I have already reviewed works by two of these authors (Troy H. Gardner and Erin Callahan) in the past, that they sent me for free in exchange for a honest review. Also, I've worked with both of them as a beta-reader on a few occasions, and I especially have history with Erin. Nevertheless, I guarantee I'm going to be as honest as usual in my review.


Um...I might have another disclaimer to make...I'm not a horror expert. I mean, I've read a good amount of books with horror in them, but not books that revolve around horror. While reading these stories, I recognised some of the classic tropes of course, and IMO, they got a great makeover, or were given an interesting twist. For the rest, I only can trust the authors' willingness to produce original content. Oh, and this is an indie book, but the quality is (un)surprisingly good (because I'm firmly convinced that only those who have indie prejudice will find it surprising). Just a handful of (genuine) typos, the same thing I recently found more than once in traditionally published books 😏. Also notable that a couple of these stories are openly queer, which apparently is far from common in horror. This been said, here are the shorties I found more outstanding, for different reasons.
Crashing Mirrors is my favourite story in here. It starts as a classic teen comedy (with a queer twist) featuring two naughty twins intent on fooling everyone with the typical sibling switch. It ends with the most unexpected (and creepy) consequence to their scam. Warning: this one features some ableist/sexist language, that clearly serves the purpose of establishing the twins' personality.
Store Macabre is a surrealistic piece about a...should I say "possessed"? department store, where all the most shocking/horrorish stuff happens - more often than not amidst the weird detachment of bystanders - while an unnamed Assistant draws a heavy and mysterious sack to the 14th floor. While the deadly store is not a new idea, the story as a whole is imaginative, matter-of-factly absurd and tragicomical. I'm not sure I understood the ending, but after a second read, I'm not sure the ending is meant to be understood either 😉.
It's Different When You Have Your Own is as short as it is unsettling. I can't say I liked it, but one thing's for sure: I'll never forget it. Which may be either a good or a bad thing 😂. Now I wish I knew how the author got the idea. Horror doesn't necessarily resides in blood and deadly creatures... [...]

October 03, 2018

Back to Black: Introducing the 2018 Halloween Backlist

Pumpkin photo: free from Pixabay. Graphics: Offbeat YA

 Hello sweeties, and happy/scary October! 😱
This year, I'm attempting something I've wanted to do for a long time. Every October since I started my blog, I kept seeing my fellow bloggers celebrate Halloween with their posts. Now, while I don't really observe the festivity (so to speak) IRL, I've been toying with the idea of joining the virtual fun with a series of blog posts myself, also because I DO enjoy dark things in my reading (except the brand of body horror for which Stephen King is renowned. Sorry guys, I tried). This resolution was stated in my Goals for 2018 post as well, as it was the intention of reviewing more backlist this year (well, so far, I haven't be able to squeeze many old-ish novels in my review plan for the year - but hey, still better than the ZERO of 2017...😏). So, I decided to accomplish two goals at once, and to spotlight four old and/or old-ish books from the dark side this Halloween, one every Wednesday till October 30th itself. Here's the plan...