#Book Review: Behold!: Oddities, Curiosities and Undefinable Wonders

Behold is a colourful kaleidoscope of weird, wacky and bizarre stories and poems.

About the Book

Want to see something weird? Embrace the odd. Satisfy your curiosity. Surrender to wonder.

From Crystal Lake Publishing and the Bram Stoker Award-nominated co-editor of the smash hit Gutted: Beautiful Horror Stories comes Behold! Oddities, Curiosities and Undefinable Wonders.

Sixteen stories and two poems take you into the spaces between the ordinary—and the imaginations of some of today’s masters of dark and thrilling fiction.

A travel writer learns the terrible secrets at a hotel that’s not at all as it seems.

A disfigured woman and her daughter explore methods of weaponizing beauty.

An amateur beekeeper acquires an object that shows her the true
danger of the hive-mind.

Drifters ride the rails seeking something wondrous that could change their fates forever.

A strange creature that holds our very existence in its hands shapes the lives of two lovers to touching and devastating effect.

A young man helps his grandfather—and something much more monstrous—atone for bargains made during wartime.

And much, much more…

Best Read

Lying in an empty grassy field on a splendid sunny day or in a giant tent, while sipping on something magical.

My Thoughts on the Book

 

I’ve been eagerly awaiting the release of this book for months and I’m delighted to have received a launch day copy to review! Behold!: Oddities, Curiosities and Undefinable Wonders is an anthology from Crystal Lake Publishing, edited by Doug Murano and featuring a vast array of authors, including Neil Gaiman and Clive Barker. My obsession with short story collections was triggered by another Crystal Lake anthology, Gutted: Beautiful Horror Stories. Gutted was also co-edited by Mr. Murano, so I had very high hopes for this.

This is another cracking anthology from Crystal Lake. This is a wondrous collection, full of strange other-worldly tales and fans of Fantasy Island will devour this.  Every addition is unique and leaves the reader feeling like they are entering different tents at a carnival, with many different, some grotesque wonders to behold. Below are snippets of my favourite stories.

Larue’s Dime Museum

This story opened the anthology – a stylish and clever take on “carnival freaks” and curiosity. Beware of what you pick up in Larue’s Dime Museum!

Wildflower, Cactus Rose

A strange tale that is sad in parts. The most horrific part to this story is humanity and our obsession with outer beauty. This was brutal in parts, but I loved the message. The author quotes it perfectly: “The world is a mirror, what we see is a reflection of who we are. So the question is, what do you want the world to see?” The ending leaves the reader keep pondering the question.

The Baker of Millepoix

Set in a beautiful French village, this is both charming and grotesque. A miraculous baker with a secret ingredient that will leave a taste in your mouth.

 Jacqueline Ess: Her Will and Testament

Clive Barker’s sprawling tale mingles horror, pleasure, obsession and love. Brilliantly written, this is a monstrous story with gore and heart. Jacqueleine is unlike any other woman, imaginary or real.

An Exhibition of Mother and Monster

I don’t normally read poetry, but I loved this nighmarish poem. It features a delicious collection of Nature’s freaks for a cheap price – “A Wholesome Fee for the Devil’s Smile.”

Chivalry

Neil Gaiman’s addition to the collection is a quirky, magical tale, with a lovely touch of humour. Mrs. Whitaker, the main character, is a feisty old lady with a great eye for antiques.

A Ware That Will Not Keep

A dying Grandfather tells his son of his experiences in a Nazi concentration camp. It’s a tale of escape, release, true horror and desperation.

Earl Pruitt’s Smoker

A wonderful, vivid flight of the imagination with a bee-keeper.

As A Guest at the Telekinetic Tea Party

I loved this poem, the second I read the alliterative title. The second poem anthology is vivacious and the cadence reminds me of a dance. It’s a dark tale of a witchy afternoon tea.

Knitter

Knitter reminded me of a gruesome Grimm’s Tale, where the unsuspecting characters have a sad fate awaiting them. Creepy and disturbing with a mystical twist.

Through Gravel

A surreal, strange tale of an underground world where the Kindred pluck their offspring from the world above.

Each story in Behold!: Oddities, Curiosities and Undefinable Wonders is a gem. I don’t want to ruin the surprise for you, so dig into this treasure trove and you won’t regret it.

 

Click here to purchase the book.

 

 

#BookReview – Twice Upon an Apocalypse

Twice upon an Apocalypse

Dark Fairytales in a Lovecraftian Landscape

I’m a big fan of Crystal Lake Publishing’s short story anthologies, so I jumped at the chance to receive a launch copy of Twice Upon An Apocalypse. These are all the well known favourite fairytales tossed into a hellish world.

Fairytales in their essence are quite horrific,  not all love and happy endings.

I loved the way each story was reworked into a unique tale, but still carried the same original story mingled with a unique flavour of Lovecraft. I find it hard to pick my favourites as they are so many good stories! But the twists on Little Red Riding Hood and Cinderella were excellent with their strong female characters! I also loved the Bluebeard and the Little Mermaid stories. The Little Mermaid has always struck a chord with me, as does the evil tale of Bluebeard.

The joy of a short story collection like this is being able to dip in for a complete story  in a short period of time.

Even though I never stopped at just one story,  because I kept wanting to see which fairytale would come next! I’m already dying to read the next Crystal Lake anthology.

To purchase the anthology  click here.

To find out more about Crystal Lake Publishing click here.

 

The Third Twin by Darren Seegle: Book Review

The Third Twin from Darren Speegle is another original horror novel from Crystal Lake Publishing and I was lucky enough to receive a launch day free copy.

Best Read: While planning an Alaskan or Brazilian adventure!!

The Third Twin

The Third Twin is clever, dark and scary. Not things go bump in the night scary, but scary like someone hurting all your nearest and dearest. There are some truly horrible moments in the book, but all are portrayed beautifully. Like all the other Crystal Lake Publishing books I’ve read, this is original and edgy.

The travel scenes are unbelievable – I want to visit Spider festival in Brazil and the Vampire Ball in Germany! I could see and smell each unique landscape in my head. The cover art is also beautiful and evocative.

A trip to the Spider Festival in Brazil for Barry and his daughter Kristin,  a couple of years after Kristin’s twin’s death,  sparks a horrific and surreal nightmare for the entire family. This is thrilling and mysterious book, with twists and turns throughout.

My only criticism is that the end was maybe a bit too clever? I had re-read the last chapter a few times to try and understand it. Eloquent and well paced, I will definitely be reading more from this author.

To purchase the book: click here.

To find out more about the book click here: click here.

Book Review: Embers by Kenneth W. Cain


Embers

Embers, A collection of Dark Fiction is a dark and twisted selection of smouldering tales.

Best way to read Embers: Curled up by a dying fire, sipping a glass of red or tea!

Recently, I’ve become a big fan of short story collections, so I jumped at the chance to review this ARC from Crystal Lake Publishing. Horror collections work especially well. A short pacy story can pack just as heavy a punch as a longer, more developed one. Gutted : Beautiful Horror Stories (also published by Crystal Lake Publishing) re-awakened my love of horrific short stories.

Embers reminded me of shows from my childhood like Tales of the Dark Side and The Twilight Zone (why I was allowed to watch this as a child, I still don’t know!) Each story is connected by a little thread to the next one. Kenneth created a web of weird, sometimes gory, sometimes psychological and always scary threads.

My favourite story is The Chamber, it made me feel clammy and uncomfortable for all the right/ wrong reasons, was the first one. In The Chamber, an old war veteran visits an old war site with his family and encounters horrors from the past and present. The imagery and sense of dread is excellently portrayed.

Of Both Worlds and Breathing Cave, two slightly connected stories freaked me out! The environment and the character’s emotions are so vivid, the reader feels like they are part of the story. The stories based largely in caves, reminded me of The Descent (an excellent horror movie from 2005).

To conclude, this well written selection is perfect for dipping into. I love discovering new horror fiction authors and I will be reading more of Kenneth’s work. To find out more about the author click here.

Click here to purchase the book.

The Final Reconciliation by Todd Keisling: Novella Review

 

The Final Reconciliation is a hard metal symphony of terror.


Final reconciliationWritten in an album format, The Final Reconciliation is a tale of the occult, a gypsy who is more than she seems and a hard metal band striving to hit the big time. When The Yellow Kings have the performance of their lives, there is only one survivor.

I was delighted to receive an ARC of The Final Reconciliation from Crystal Lake Publishing (link to the Crystal Lake website). This is the third book I’ve read from Crystal Lake Publishing, including Gutted Beautiful Horror Stories.  Gutted was the most memorable, brutal and beautiful collection of stories from last year.

The pace and length of this novella were perfect for the tale, narrated 30 years after the tragic concert, by a journalist interviewing aging rock star Aidan Cross. The Yellow Kings are struggling to make their dreams come true when Camilla, a seductive gypsy character appears on the scene. Her introduction to them is the start of their nightmarish fate.

Friendship is key to the story, as were the changing dynamics of the group. The scenes where the band are pouring their souls into their final album are described in gory and grotesque detail.

There is dark beautiful imagery during the visions of Carcosa. The ending was both disturbing and mesmerising.  The album reaches its’ crescendo with a horrifying climax.

The Final Reconciliation is a horrifying tale, which will appeal to lovers of heavy metal and horror alike.

 Here are the links to purchase this book:

Amazon: http://getbook.at/TheYellowKing

http://www.crystallakepub.com/the-final-reconciliation/