Review: Mestiza Blood by V. Castro

Mestiza Blood

Preorder Here: Amazon, Bookshop

Synopsis:

From the lauded author of The Queen of the Cicadas (which picked up starred reviews from PW, Kirkus and Booklist who called her “a dynamic and innovative voice”) comes a short story collection of nightmares, dreams, desire and visions focused on the Chicana experience. V.Castro weaves urban legend, folklore, life experience and heartache in this personal journey beginning in south Texas: a bar where a devil dances the night away; a street fight in a neighborhood that may not have been a fight after all; a vengeful chola at the beginning of the apocalypse; mind swapping in the not so far future; satan who falls and finds herself in a brothel in Amsterdam; the keys to Mictlan given to a woman after she dies during a pandemic. The collection finishes with two longer tales: The Final Porn Star is a twist on the final girl trope and slasher, with a creature from Mexican folklore; and Truck Stop is an erotic horror romance with two hearts: a video store and a truck stop.

Review:

Since V. Castro’s novella Hairspray and Switchblades, she has been making a huge amount of noise. This year she released a novel, The Queen of the Cicadas, a novella, The Goddess of Filth, and early next year, she will release a short story collection, Mestiza Blood. If you have not picked up any of her works yet, you are missing out on a great talent and some remarkable stories. 

Mestiza Blood is a story collection with all different sizes and lengths of story. All but three of the 14 stories make up the first half of the book and the second half is primarily two longer stories, “Truck Stop” and “The Final Porn Star.” Even though the stories are varied in size, they seem to have common themes seeped in Mexican folklore, tradition, and survival. Like any story collection there are stories that I like more than others, but there are very few that did not just make me fall in love. Here are my favorites.

“Night of the Living Dead Chola” starts the collection with a bang. The Rio Grande is drying up and all of the dead women at the bottom are starting to rise and walk to earth. The main character seeks out her killer. Even though this is only a five or six page story, there is so much idea and plot packed into it that if I found out she was writing a novel based on these women, I would preorder it immediately.

“Donkey Lady Bridge” A local legend of a creature half donkey/half woman named Diana is living under a bridge. Another woman, Jackie, is walking home drunk across this bridge and nothing is the same afterward.  This is a good example of the present day and folklore meshing.

“Cam Girl Sally” A college girl gets hurt during a campus shooting. Out of desperation to pay her medical bills, she becomes a cam girl. When she gets a chance at revenge, she takes it. This story is perfect, and I enjoy the plotting and the empathy we feel for the main character.

“The Cold Season” This is the first of three longer stories about a woman, Araceli, who has her mind transferred to a new baby so that she can live on. The story starts at the end of one life and the beginning of another. We follow her through her newest life, and with all of the twists and turns her life brings.

“Truck Stop” This is my favorite of all of the stories in this collection. The story starts with Sonora found as a baby wrapped in her dead mother’s arms while they were trying to cross the desert, and after she lives in an orphanage for eighteen years, she leaves and finds a home working at a truck stop, making money by being company for truckers. She has regulars and she has a decent life, even with the secret on her chest, literally. This reminds me of Basket Case (which is actually mentioned in story “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year”), and I will say that someone needs to make this into a film. There are a solid three acts and it would be a movie that the horror community needs.

Many people are hesitant to read short story collections, but this is one that really showcases V. Castro’s talents and her storytelling abilities.  There are some stories where I thought about how she writes like Ray Bradbury, particularly “The Cold Season”.  She is able to drop us into a world that is already off-kilter but the characters think it is normal. Her short story writing is strong, and she can make a six page story feel epic.

She also does such a great mix of Mexican folklore with sex positive and female positive literature that also shows a female empowerment that I don’t always see, especially in horror fiction. Even though there are monsters and demons throughout the stories, there are many harsh reminders that much of the real evil is performed by men against women. This is something that V. Castro uses  as a theme in all of her work, and as long as men do not change, she will always have a story to write. Her writing is important as much as it is entertaining and exciting. 

I received this as an ARC from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Review: Murakami T: The T-Shirts I Love by Haruki Murakami

Murakami T: The T-Shirts I Love

Buy Here: Amazon, Bookshop

Synopsis:

The international literary icon opens his eclectic closet: Here are photographs of Murakami’s extensive and personal T-shirt collection, accompanied by essays that reveal a side of the writer rarely seen by the public.

Considered the world’s most popular cult novelist (The Guardian), Haruki Murakami has written books that have galvanized millions around the world. Many of his fans know about his 10,000-vinyl-record collection, and his obsession with running, but few have heard about a more intimate, and perhaps more unique, passion: his T-shirt-collecting habit.

In Murakami T, the famously reclusive novelist shows us his T-shirts–including gems from the Springsteen on Broadway show in NYC, to the Beach Boys concert in Honolulu, to the shirt that inspired the beloved short story Tony Takitani. Accompanied by short, frank essays that have been translated into English for the first time, these photographs reveal much about Murakami’s multifaceted and wonderfully eccentric persona.

Haruki Murakami unpacks his T-shirt collection, Life & Culture - THE  BUSINESS TIMES

Review:

All of the impressions I get from Haruki Murakami and his writings is that he lives a quiet but consistent life. He writes and runs and collects vinyl, and he does the same things almost every day. One of the other things that he enjoys is finding t-shirts. Over the years he has amassed a huge collection, some of them promotional t-shirts publishers have sent him, some of them are from marathons he has run, but many of them are from second hand stores because he likes to look at t-shirts and buy them. When he travels, he says that he does not really pack many clothes because he likes to pick up new t-shirts during his travels, thus the reason why he has boxes of t-shirts packed away. 

He was asked to write small essays about his collection a few years ago, to be published in a Japanese men’s magazine called Popeye, he went through his collection and realized there are themes, there are shirts he will not wear, and there are shirts that mean more than others. These essays are translated and collected with the photographs of many of his t-shirts. 

This seems like it could be the weirdest of Murakami books or even one of the most boring. The truth is that it is exactly the calm, quiet, silly book that many of us need right now. With the stress of the holidays, families, jobs, and the world in general, reading an easy book about t-shirts feels a deep breath of air. I enjoyed this because it just makes me feel good to look through his t-shirt collection and what the shirts mean to him. I also find it funny because he is very honest about some of the shirts, like how he would never wear his collection of whiskey shirts because he does not want to be perceived as a drunk, and how he likes car shirts, but realistically what is the point of a car t-shirt? These essays are easy to read but most importantly they make me feel kind of like the world does not have to be as complicated as I make it. 

Some might think that this is for a Murakami fan more than a new reader, and I will agree with that wholeheartedly. There are many better books in his oeuvre, even other memoirs he has written that are better, but this is definitely a look into the world where Haruki Murakami lives. 

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Review: The Lost Village by Camilla Sten

The Lost Village

Buy Here: Amazon, Bookshop

Synopsis:

The Blair Witch Project meets Midsommar in this brilliantly disturbing thriller from Camilla Sten, an electrifying new voice in suspense.

Documentary filmmaker Alice Lindstedt has been obsessed with the vanishing residents of the old mining town, dubbed “The Lost Village,” since she was a little girl. In 1959, her grandmother’s entire family disappeared in this mysterious tragedy, and ever since, the unanswered questions surrounding the only two people who were left—a woman stoned to death in the town center and an abandoned newborn—have plagued her. She’s gathered a small crew of friends in the remote village to make a film about what really happened.

But there will be no turning back.

Not long after they’ve set up camp, mysterious things begin to happen. Equipment is destroyed. People go missing. As doubt breeds fear and their very minds begin to crack, one thing becomes startlingly clear to Alice:

They are not alone.

They’re looking for the truth…
But what if it finds them first? 

Review:

I received this as an ARC from the publisher and Netgalley in exchange for an honest review

There are many books that I do not really like, and most of the time when I do not like a book, I usually just say it did not work for me and keep moving. There are so many great books out there that need reviewing that I don’t waste much time reviewing books I do not enjoy. Having said that, there is something about The Lost Village that really makes me angry enough to vocalize my frustrations. I will be spoiling some of this book, which is also something I never do, but I will be putting a warning before this section. 

I usually find the good in everything I read. In The Lost Village, I really was attracted to the story. Five people are going to a mining village where everyone disappeared sixty years earlier. The mystery of that set up with the horrors that are likely to come to the five new visitors is very appealing. I was very excited to read this. When I got into the story, the writing was clunky but okay. I do not know if it was the authors or the translator who made some of the prose kind of stiff and boring, but it was definitely noticeable that this is a translated work.  I was not terribly disappointed in most of the story, but there are elements of it that I have very strong feelings about. It is upsetting that this novel turned out the way it ends. I am one to suspend belief sometimes to make a plot work, but the turns that The Lost Village make are not things that I can overlook.

*Spoilers below*

There are some really dumb things that happen, like the main villian in the end is someone who has been living in the village since it has been empty. For sixty years. The village had lost its mining jobs long before everyone disappeared, so the likelihood that anyone found enough food in that time to sustain herself seems a little far fetched. 

It is also far-fetched that the five people who are supposed to be there to film a documentary does not film anything. They take pictures with cameras, not video recorders, that are rented for a short period of time. I do not know how cheap it is to rent equipment, but I do now it would probably be just as expensive to buy a few GoPro cameras and use their smartphones to record video footage. All of their phones end up with dead batteries, but I would think that if the entire project relied on electricity to film, there would be a small generator or something they could bring to charge up their phones. 


But these are not my biggest complaints. My biggest complaint is the treatment of Tone, one of the characters who sprains her ankle badly enough to need to take pain killers. To do this, she does not take her antipsychotic meds for a few days. So of course when she wanders off and bad stuff happens to the rest of the group, she is instantly demonized for being the mentally unstable woman off her medication. Not only is this a dangerous stereotype for people who have mental health issues, it is just plain untrue. Tone’s mental health is not so bad that she is going to turn into a raging killer after missing her pills for two days. I don’t think any psychiatric medicine is out of your system that quickly. What we have is characters who perpetuate stereotypes more than awareness, and for this alone The Lost Village is a damaging book.

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Review: The Collective by Alison Gaylin

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Buy it here: Amazon, Bookshop

Synopsis:

Just how far will a grieving mother go to right a tragic wrong?

Camille Gardner is a grieving—and angry—mother who, five years after her daughter’s death, is still obsessed with the privileged young man she believes to be responsible.

When her rash actions attract the attention of a secret group of women—the collective— Camille is drawn into a dark web where these mothers share their wildly different stories of loss as well as their desire for justice in a world where privilege denies accountability and perpetrators emerge unscathed. Fueled by mutual rage, these women orchestrate their own brand of justice through precise, anonymous, complexly plotted and perfectly executed revenge killings, with individual members completing a specific and integral task in each plan.

As Camille struggles to comprehend whether this is a role-playing exercise or terrifying reality, she must decide if these women are truly avenging angels or monsters. Becoming more deeply enmeshed in the group, Camille learns truths about the collective—and about herself—that she may not be able to survive.

Review:

Social media has changed many things in the world, including the way that we communicate with others and the way that we express our lives. I know that there are those who need to share every single thing about their day (if it’s not a post, it didn’t happen), and there are those who shy away from everything about sharing anything personal. One of the things that has really starting to trend in last few years is that people are starting to want their privacy back, even if they are posting almost every day. This newer sense of anonymity might have something to do with the ads changing based on conversations that you are having and algorithms that are sometimes pretty spot on but sometimes just out of control. There has also been a rise in the internet investigator, the internet snoop who listens to true crime podcasts and watch crime documentaries, and think that with a little bit of internet sleuthing, she can solve the case. Those people can gather in forums and secret pages and sometimes gather more evidence than the police. 

The Collective is about one of those forums, one that is made up of grieving mothers who do not think the person that is responsible for their child’s death has received the proper penalty for their crime. Camille Gardner becomes part of this group because her daughter was raped and died in the woods behind a fraternity house one winter evening. The boy who did this was found innocent, and he is living his best life while her child is dead. This does not sit well with Camille and her grief, and so she turns to an online forum. This forum turns into a group, the collective, who has their own ways of punishing the guilty. 

The Collective is definitely a social media age book, filled with websites, posts, burner phones, texting, and seemingly random events that actually are just pieces of the same puzzle. There are many times when the things Camille is asked to do does not mean much as an individual act but they are important to the bigger picture. There are some times when some of the randomness is really impressive, as if the story is so meticulously plotted that no move is wasted. The pace is fast and the story moves at a breakneck speed, and in the end, we know that Camille is in way over her head much earlier than she does. 


I enjoyed reading The Collective, and even though I am not terribly excited about the ending, it is the only ending that makes any sense. As a whole this was a thrilling story, and I enjoyed the many parts that ended up becoming an entire picture.

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Review: Devil’s Creek by Todd Keisling

Buy it here:

Amazon, Bookshop

Synopsis:

About fifteen miles west of Stauford, Kentucky lies Devil’s Creek. According to local legend, there used to be a church out there, home to the Lord’s Church of Holy Voices—a death cult where Jacob Masters preached the gospel of a nameless god.

And like most legends, there’s truth buried among the roots and bones.

In 1983, the church burned to the ground following a mass suicide. Among the survivors were Jacob’s six children and their grandparents, who banded together to defy their former minister. Dubbed the “Stauford Six,” these children grew up amid scrutiny and ridicule, but their infamy has faded over the last thirty years.

Now their ordeal is all but forgotten, and Jacob Masters is nothing more than a scary story told around campfires.

For Jack Tremly, one of the Six, memories of that fateful night have fueled a successful art career—and a lifetime of nightmares. When his grandmother Imogene dies, Jack returns to Stauford to settle her estate. What he finds waiting for him are secrets Imogene kept in his youth, secrets about his father and the church. Secrets that can no longer stay buried.

The roots of Jacob’s buried god run deep, and within the heart of Devil’s Creek, something is beginning to stir… 

Review:

Devil’s Creek is one of those huge, ambitious horror novels that either grips you and pulls you in or one that you never really connect with so you plow through the chapters, taking a long time to get through each page and finally there is a sense of relief when you finally finish it. I was in the latter category in this case, and I know that most of the fault is with me and not with the story. 

Devil’s Creek has everything that is good in a horror novel. It starts with a final ritual from a defunct cult, the six children survivors being known as the Stauford Six. These six grow up and go their separate ways, to become preachers, artists, meth cookers, police officers, and radio station owners. It seems like all of them have a dark cloud over them that they cannot outrun, and this shapes the way they conduct themselves as adults. And this is because the dark cloud has never left. Jacob Masters, the leader of the Devil’s Creek cult is poised to make his triumphant return to wreak havoc on the town and to claim the Stauford Six back to the glory of God. 

The novel unfolds in a slow and steady way. Todd Keisling says that he made this as a novel that has a town terror, where the entire town is in peril, like ‘Salem’s Lot by Stephen King, where an infection quickly sweeps through, and nobody in town is safe. He also says the length is mandatory to the way he wants to tell the story, so Devil’s Creek being such a huge book is done with purpose. He explores the entire town and lives of many characters. This detailing made the story move so slow for me until closer to the end. I know that there are glimpses of the future ending throughout, but it was not enough to get me hooked on the story and excited to see what was going to happen next. 

I did enjoy this novel, but I did not connect to the story until the last one hundred pages, so the first three hundred took me forever to read. I feel like this is more my taste as a reader than Todd Keisling’s writing. He does a great job with realizing his vision and the story does unfold and becomes a solid horror novel. Even though I did not attach to this novel like I thought I would, I do see all of the merit and will be recommending it to some readers in my life who might call me crazy for not loving it. 

I received this as an ARC from NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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Review: Comfort Me With Apples by Catherynne M. Valente

Comfort Me With Apples

Buy Here: Bookshop, Amazon

Synopsis:

Sophia was made for him. Her perfect husband. She can feel it in her bones. He is perfect. Their home together in Arcadia Gardens is perfect. Everything is perfect.

It’s just that he’s away so much. So often. He works so hard. She misses him. And he misses her. He says he does, so it must be true. He is the perfect husband and everything is perfect.

But sometimes Sophia wonders about things. Strange things. Dark things. The look on her husband’s face when he comes back from a long business trip. The questions he will not answer. The locked basement she is never allowed to enter. And whenever she asks the neighbors, they can’t quite meet her gaze…

But everything is perfect. Isn’t it?

Review:

I do not faithfully listen to many podcasts, but I do try to keep up with This is Horror. When they did their interview with Catherynne M. Valente, they talked a great deal about her work, her writing, and how she works with ADHD, writing Space Opera, and her two new novellas. One of them is The Past is Red and the other is Comfort Me With Apples. I instantly ordered both of them, and since Comfort Me With Apples came out yesterday, I figured I would delve into it while waiting for the Calgary Flames hockey game to start. The novella is one 100 pages, and so Valente grips the reader quickly with a story that turns bizarre from the very beginning and does not stop until the end.

The story is about Sophia, a woman who lives in a large perfect house in a perfect gated community. She gets up every morning, has her normal daily routine, and waits for her husband whom she loves dearly, to come home from his important work. She is happy. Life is perfect. She sits at a vanity every morning and puts on her makeup. When she decides to open one of the drawers she has never thought to open before, she discovers a hairbrush and hair, and neither of them belong to her. Thus begins the strange journey Sophia takes in this novella, from a place of content to a mystery of who she is and the real nature of her husband’s work. 

It is tough to say anymore without ruining it. I loved this book and how weird some of it is. I love that there seems to be a perfect little world of the gated community, with friends that invite her for tea and gossip. I love that we know the characters are off and once Sophia starts looking for cracks in her world, there are thousands of them. The story is gripping and the writing is superb. Valente does a fantastic job with this novella, and I love that she splits the chapters with the rules of the HOA of the neighborhood where Sophia lives. The structure and the depth to the story in such a small space is remarkable, and I will be passing this novella along to my friends because everyone deserves the experience of this novella.

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Review: Crossroads by Laurel Hightower

Crossroads

Buy it here: Off Limits Press, Amazon, Bookshop

Synopsis:

How far would you go to bring back someone you love?

When Chris’s son dies in a tragic car crash, her world is devastated. The walls of grief close in on Chris’s life until, one day, a small cut on her finger changes everything.

A drop of blood falls from Chris’s hand onto her son’s roadside memorial and, later that night, Chris thinks she sees his ghost outside her window. Only, is it really her son’s ghost, or is it something else—something evil?

Soon Chris is playing a dangerous game with forces beyond her control in a bid to see her son, Trey, alive once again.

Review:

I started reading this novella on September 10, 2020. I finished it 393 days later. This means that I averaged a page every 3.5 days. These statistics skew the rest of the story. I remember starting to read Crossroads and getting halfway through when I realized I could not read it. I don’t know if it was because of the state of the world in May 2020, and while working the front line of Covid-19, managing patients on life support, I was seeing a great deal of tragic family loss, but the story of Chris and her grief for losing her only son, Trey in a car accident, and being so grief stricken that she had a daily visit to the roadside cross where he died was just too much at the time. I put it down until a few days ago. Mostly because I kept looking at it on the shelf and kept thinking about how I had heard nothing but good things about it. So 526 days later, I have finished Crossroads, and even though Covid has not changed as much as I had liked, my need for dark literature has returned.

 Crossroads is dark, sad, and filled with grief and heartache. I know that there are only 110 pages, but the story seems to be much much longer. We feel so much for Chris and even the secondary characters like Dan, the neighbor who is watching her struggle, and Beau, Chris’s ex-husband and Trey’s father, that the connection between reader and character is so strong, especially for such a short novella. Maybe because we naturally feel empathy for those who have lost someone, and especially when it comes to losing a child, those stories of grief really suck us in. This may be because of the genuine disbelief in how we would act if given the situation, and a little bit of relief that it is happening to someone else and not us.  Or maybe it is the result of a skillful writer. Laurel Hightower does such a masterful job of telling the story. She weaves so much emotion into the story that you feel the desperation of Chris to see her son again, that you feel the longing that Dan feels for Chris to have some peace in her life. Hightower does not hold back on making the reader feel the things her characters feel.


I enjoy this novella and I cannot recommend it enough. Not only is it a good story, but it is a great example of what a masterful writer can do with this form. I feel like Crossroads is one of the novellas that will be discussed as one of the end classic of the horror at the novella length. Do not wait as long as I did to finish this book.

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Review: The Forest by Lisa Quigley

The Forest

Buy Here: Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing, Amazon, Bookshop

Synopsis:

Everyone in Edgewood believes their annual tithes at the fall festival are what purchase Edgewood’s safety, but as Faye and her husband prepare to take over as town stewards—a long tradition carried out by her family for generations—they learn the terrible truth: in order to guarantee the town’s safety, the forest demands an unthinkable sacrifice.

In the midst of everything, Faye is secretly battling debilitating postpartum anxiety that makes her all the more terrified to leave the safe cocoon of her enchanted town.

When everyone turns against her—including her own husband—Faye is forced to flee with her infant son into the forest. She must face whatever lurks there and, perhaps most frightening of all, the dark torments of her own mind.

The Forest is an adult folk horror novel appealing to fans of The Lottery by Shirley Jackson and Bird Box by Josh Malerman, with a hint of The Changeling by Victor LaValle. It is Quigley’s debut novel.

Review:

Lisa Quigley’s debut novel, The Forest, is one of those novels that sucked me into the plot and characters quicker than I expected. When the story started with Faye, the main character, running away from her town with her infant son to hide in the forest, I could not help but think about another book I read this year, Sorrowland by Rivers Solomon. I love Sorrowland, and I tried not to compare the two, but the plots in the beginning felt fairly similar. Both have mothers running away from a society that has their own rules, rules they cannot be a part of. The difference is that the main character in Sorrowland is much harder and much more angry than Faye. Faye had had a good life in Edgewood, mostly because Edgewood is a mystical town where nothing bad happens. Her husband came to this town to help his mother heal, and the town healed her so he stayed. Her parents and siblings are happy and satisfied people, and even though Faye does have a few wanderlust tendencies in the back of her mind, her life is so good that the thought of leaving the town was not too overpowering. Until now.

I wanted to dislike this much because of how much I enjoyed Sorrowland, but it did not take long for me to latch onto these characters and the dilemmas they faced and forget about comparing books. The Forest is it’s own novel, and even though I loved it, there are some things that start to get a little redundant, like the way she uses breastfeeding as a plot device. It seems like there is not much that Faye knows about how to soothe her infant son besides giving him her breast. There are times when he is hungry, but there are more times when she breastfeeds him because she does not know what else to do to soothe him. Something so normal becomes one of the few actions between her and her son. Another thing that she repeats often is the infant’s “downy” or “soft” hair. She uses this as a repeated way to give Faye some comfort. These things (and a few others) are very noticeable, but this does not get in the way of the fact that this is a great book. 

There are things about the premise that I wish was explored more. I want to know more about Edgewood and what it is like to be a citizen of the town. I want to know more about the role of the town stewards and what that entails. I want to know more about the background of Faye’s postpartum anxieties. I know that it exists but I don’t know how it manifests. I want to know more about the forest and the fears that the town has of it. Lisa Quigley builds a world that we want to visit, and despite some of the imperfections of this novel, I will be recommending it to many of my friends and be looking forward to what comes next.

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Review: My Heart is a Chainsaw by Stephen Graham Jones

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Buy here: Amazon, Bookshop

Synopsis:

In her quickly gentrifying rural lake town Jade sees recent events only her encyclopedic knowledge of horror films could have prepared her for

Jade Daniels is an angry, half-Indian outcast with an abusive father, an absent mother, and an entire town that wants nothing to do with her. She lives in her own world, a world in which protection comes from an unusual source: horror movies…especially the ones where a masked killer seeks revenge on a world that wronged them. And Jade narrates the quirky history of Proofrock as if it is one of those movies. But when blood actually starts to spill into the waters of Indian Lake, she pulls us into her dizzying, encyclopedic mind of blood and masked murderers, and predicts exactly how the plot will unfold.

Yet, even as Jade drags us into her dark fever dream, a surprising and intimate portrait emerges… a portrait of the scared and traumatized little girl beneath the Jason Voorhees mask: angry, yes, but also a girl who easily cries, fiercely loves, and desperately wants a home. A girl whose feelings are too big for her body.

My Heart Is a Chainsaw is her story, her homage to horror and revenge and triumph.

Review:

Originally published at www.mysteryandsuspense.com

Stephen Graham Jones has been publishing for twenty years, and he has been highly revered in the horror community as one of the greatest living horror writers. Last year was a good year for him. He published the novel The Only Good Indians in July and the novella Night of the Mannequins in September.

He won both of the 2020 Shirley Jackson Awards for novel and novella with these two. His newest novel, My Heart is a Chainsaw, is highly anticipated, and there are some huge expectations for many readers based on this success.

My Heart is a Chainsaw does not disappoint. The novel surrounds Jade, an half-indigenous outsider at school with an absent mother and a drunk father. She does what she can to survive, which is to delve into her love of slasher movies and be convinced that her small town of Proofrock, Idaho is going to be the victim of a huge massacre. There are several settings in this novel that can be seen as old sets from slasher movies. Proofrock is on one side of Indian Lake, which might have a Lake Witch, the other side is an old summer camp called Camp Blood, and there is Terra Nova, a rich suburb that is still in construction on top of what very well might be a Native American burial ground. Jade is convinced that this is the perfect recipe for bad things to happen. Throughout the novel, she is trying to warn the town, trying to get someone to listen to her, and getting in trouble for her efforts. She latches onto Letha Mondragon, one of the new girls from Terra Nova, and knows that she is going to be the final girl. Unfortunately when she tells Letha this, she gets into even more trouble with the police. In the end, Jade does not give up; she needs to warn everyone of the impending doom the town is going to face, even though most of her insights are based on slasher movie logic and not reality. 

Stephen Graham Jones loves slashers, and he pours this love into Jade. He has been on many podcasts talking about his love for the slasher genre, and when Jade talks about slashers in this book, she does not only talk about the big ones, like Friday the 13th and Halloween. She describes some deep cuts, like Just Before Dawn and A Bay of Blood. There are also essays written from Jade to her history teacher about the rules and history of the slasher genre and how it fits into the life and events of Proofrock. These rules and history of slasher segments are things I have heard come from Stephen Graham Jones himself during some podcasts, so listening to Jade, I feel like I am also listening to the author. He has poured his love into this character, and it really shows.

My Heart is a Chainsaw is a novel for horror fans. Jade is written as a horror fan that many horror fans can understand. Many fans were outsiders through high school or do not have a good home life, so many use a world of horror movies and fantasy as coping mechanisms. Jade might be a little more obsessed than many horror fans, but the sentiment is there. Horror is a way that many people have coped with a tough life or tough times. Stephen Graham Jones makes his character someone that many horror fans can relate to, and in the end,  Stephen Graham Jones is not only writing a horror novel but he is writing a love letter to a genre.  

I received this as an ARC from the publisher and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Review: Ratio of Brookes to Ashleys by Wol-Vriey

Ratio of Brookes to Ashleys

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Synopsis

SOMETHING IS VICIOUSLY KILLING MIKE’S GIRLFRIENDS!

After being cursed by a dying woman, Mike Broadman’s love life completely nosedives. One girlfriend cheats on him and the next one dies a very messy death.

Next, a psychic informs Mike that he’s under an evil spell that will keep killing his girlfriends, and that the ONLY solution (the ONLY way that he’ll ever have a happy love life again) is for him to only date women named either Brooke or Ashley from now on.

Mike tries to comply with this, but still, the deaths continue, and now they’re becoming even more brutal and bloody. Mike now finds himself in a race against time. He needs to ‘equalize the ratio of Brookes to Ashleys’ before it’s too late.

And then, just when it seems things can’t get any crazier or deadlier for Mike, he meets ‘Brash’ — the twins Brooke and Ashley Lawrence . . .

And the body count keeps rising . . .

Review:

Wol-vriey contacted me years ago to review one of his novellas, Big Trouble in Little Ass, a crazy western that I loved enough to recommend to everyone. Years later, he has requested again that I look at Ratio of Brookes to Ashleys. I did not hesitate to agree. I received this novel from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Mike has broken up with his girlfriend, Ashley, and she takes it hard. So hard that she casts a spell on him during a ritual suicide. Mike then starts to see everyone he is dating die in horrific ways. He needs to find out this curse does not apply to girls named Ashley or Brooke, the first and middle name of his ex-girlfriend. Mike is that twenty something character who hangs out with other twenty something characters. They all go to their menial jobs, drink on their time off, and sleep with each other. It is not hard for Mike to find Ashleys and Brookes to date.

Except there might be a killer following Mike killing pretty much everyone he knows. 

There are a few different layers to this novel. You have the aspect of Mike trying to deal with this curse. You have the serial killer mystery. And this is all wrapped up in a party lifestyle that Mike and his friends participate in. I like Wol-vriey’s plots and his characters are pretty funny. I was put off by some of the writing. Some of the turns of phrase and sentences just did not really fit well. The story is meant to take place on the East Coast. Wol-vriey is from Nigeria. Some of this feels like when all of the Italian movie makers were making films in America, like New York Ripper and The House by the Cemetery. It is not that there is anything particularly wrong as much as the tone feels different. Wol-vriey uses some words and phrases that people in New England would not use. 

As a whole, I really liked Ratio of Brookes to Ashleys. It is a fun horror novel that mashes up two of the great subgenres of horror, the evil curse and the serial killer story, and he spares no detail in talking about blood and guts. Wol-vriey has a ton of books out, and all of them are good fun. 

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