Poetry Review: Dark Energies by Ann K. Schwader

Dark Energies By Ann K. Schwader ISBN-13: 978-0980462517 $12.00; 112 pages; August 2015 P’REA PRESS Science fiction and horror are family members who live and breathe the same air, just one breathes with a punctured set of lungs from a knife wound, while the other breathes from a carefully constructed set of organs made out… Continue reading Poetry Review: Dark Energies by Ann K. Schwader

POETRY REVIEW: Thorns, Hearts and Thistles

Thorns, Hearts and Thistles By Rose Blackthorn ISBN-13: 978-0692393192 $5.99; 100 pages; February, 2015 Eldritch Press Rose Blackthorn’s poetry collection, Thorns, Hearts and Thistles, envelopes readers in a gothic retelling of painful memories and sorrowful recollections. Taking place in dark, atmospheric settings such as haunted houses or sullied gardens, these places evoke feelings of loss,… Continue reading POETRY REVIEW: Thorns, Hearts and Thistles

Review: Beautiful Sorrows by Mercedes M. Yardley

Beautiful Sorrows $12.59; 196 pages; September 2012 ISBN-13: 978-0988272309 By Mercedes M. Yardley Shock Totem Publications   “The other girl, she has eyes like oil. They’re dark and black and slick. They widen like holes and one day they’ll swallow me completely. I tell her this. She smiles, just a little.”- “Black Mary,” Mercedes M.… Continue reading Review: Beautiful Sorrows by Mercedes M. Yardley

Review: Back Roads and Frontal Lobes by Brady Allen

  Back Roads and Frontal Lobes $14.40; 285 pages; October, 2012 ISBN: 0615698395 By Brady Allen Post Mortem Press Welcome to Stairway Falls, Ohio. It’s a place where nightmares run wild, horror is on tap, and karma is right around the corner. It’s a cheap hotel room, a quiet diner, a sacred harmonica, and a… Continue reading Review: Back Roads and Frontal Lobes by Brady Allen

Review: Suffer the Children by Craig DiLouie

Suffer the Children $16.00; 352 pages; May 2014 ASIN: B00DX0F4L4 By Craig DiLouie Gallery Books  “He stumbled toward his truck in a daze. He didn’t make it. He fell to his knees with a long primal cry of anguish. Behind him, panic had given way to shock and grief, the park quiet now except for… Continue reading Review: Suffer the Children by Craig DiLouie

Review: Orchid Carousals by Lucy A. Snyder

Orchid Carousals $2.99; 117 pages; August, 2013 ASIN: B00EO2WXUK By Lucy A. Snyder Creative Guy Publishing Orchid Carousals is a delightfully dark, erotic collection that draws a line between love and lust, between goodness and sin. Divided into three parts—Shimmer Stories, Apocalyptic Love, and Random Play—Lucy A. Snyder embraces the fantastical elements of surrealism and… Continue reading Review: Orchid Carousals by Lucy A. Snyder

Vampires, Zombies and Wanton Souls

By Marge Simon and Sandy DeLuca

ISBN-13: 978-0982855447

$17.00; 156 pages; February, 2012

Elektrik Milk Bath Press

 

It’s not very often that I judge a book by its cover, but in the case of Vampires, Zombies and Wanton Souls, it’s hard not to. Draped in a colorful palette of reds, grays, and blues, DeLuca wraps both the cover and the spine in a woman’s hair, concocting a gentle, yet vicious maelstrom of curls. The female looks off into in the distance, refusing the viewer’s eyes in a seductive glance, eyes wide open, piercing blue, lost in focus. The brushstrokes lead the viewer in, and then push them away, much like Simon’s women between the pages. In a stunning marriage between poetry and art, the two artists not only call to the definition of the feminine, but question its innocence and ferocity. Are these women misunderstood angels? Devils? Or perhaps maybe they are something much, much worse.

What’s most beautiful about this collection is the way that Simon and DeLuca feed off each other’s muse, off each other’s interpretation of the lifeline of their characters. The vampires, the zombies, the wanton souls… Simon and DeLuca don’t just write and paint them. They become them. They devour the girl’s stories, their heartbreaks, their sins, and then they retell their deaths and rebirths with ink and color, metaphor and line.

And it’s frightful what these women have done.

Simon tells the story of the seductress, the victim, the murderer, and DeLuca paints the blood on her face and the circles under her eyes. If you flip through the collection, you’ll meet a flash of color—bright and dull, absent and vibrant—and catch the stares of many a woman wronged, not to mention the wrath of a woman scorned. Simon speaks of love taken to the edge of a cliff, of back-alley sex after the stars go blank. DeLuca siphons souls with the curves and strokes of her girls, hypnotizes men with the full pout of luscious lips. It’s hard to imagine who’s deadlier: the ladies on the page, or the ladies creating them?

Take this collection as a cup of tea, but one mixed with rose petals and poison. There is great beauty here—women who have survived, conquered, thrived—but there is also death, destruction, power. It’s easy to be attracted to danger, especially when she bats her eyes at you, and whispers promises in your ear. It’s hard to walk away from fate, to push past the desire, the need to explore and sate your curiosity. But sometimes the people we want the most, the people we yearn for the deepest, are devils masked in the moonlight, sirens walking the earth. This collection is a warning as much as it is a celebration.

Readers and viewers beware: beauty can kill you, but it can also bring you back.

But as something different. Something darker.

Something with fangs. With cravings.

Something without a soul.

 

Stephanie M. Wytovich

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Tearstone
By David L. Day
$11.00; 244 pages; March, 2013
ISBN: 978-1927580141
Belfire Press

Tearstone is a fast-paced, character-driven plunge into the occult where a strange artifact unleashes its rage on a small town with a dark secret. Two brothers, Tom and Kyle Burton, are brought back together again after their father’s suicide, forcing them to relive old memories that should have stayed buried. While Tom searches for answers to his father’s death—reading diaries, searching the house, asking questions—Kyle seeks out relief for a decade’s worth of guilt, guilt both he and his family share. But in a town where murder breeds faster than lust, revisiting their past might surface more trouble than either of them is ready to handle.

David Day combines the tropes of classic religious horror—control, memory loss, pregnancy, idolatry—with fresh ideas and thrills that will possess readers to keep turning the page in an attempt to figure out the monster within. His prose is direct and full, painting a clear picture that can be studied from every angle. It’s Day’s ability to utilize imagery as a way to instill panic and fear that is his greatest strength, as there are scenes and phrases that will continue to haunt me, not to mention the fact that I’ll never be able to walk into a library again without thinking of this novel.

His words will stay with you.

Day also uses a combination of strong female characters—Cassy, a deputy obsessed by the disappearance of her cousin, and Elana, a librarian and religious fanatic—and couples them against the secondary characters of Dorthea and Jessica, two lovers whose lives have been turned upside down after Dorthea became pregnant during a night neither of them can fully remember. These women each play a frightening role as they change, learn, and come to understand their positions in a town consumed by obsession, a fixation that stemmed from the unearthing of a stone, “polished smooth as glass, the color of fresh cut grass and streaked with red” (Day 12). But it’s not until a group of children go missing, and three graves show up—one of them empty—that their world’s truly go up in flames. Add on a few cases of murder, domestic violence, and a steady occurrence of miscarriages, and it’s hard to keep a town—not to mention its inhabitants—from falling apart.

Tearstone, Day’s debut novel, shows what happens when people ask too many questions and play with forces they don’t understand. It’s a novel of obsession—of physical objects and of mental strain—and it shows readers what happens when the dead don’t’ stay buried, and the living can’t control their actions. In the tradition of Rosemary’s Baby, and Storm of the Century, Day plays with the notion of a child bringing about a new age, a new beginning, but the twists and turns he adds along the way will have readers begging for more as the ending is almost as shocking as Elana’s spiritual revelation in the library.

–Stephanie M. Wytovich

 

 

 

 

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The Monstrance  by Bryan D. Dietrich

 

ISBN: 978-1-926912-97-4 $10.99; 132pgs; August, 2012 Needfire Poetry

frankenstein1910   The Monstrance by Bryan D. Dietrich is the lightning bolt that gave life to Frankenstein’s monster. It is the storm that rode through the sky-cracking thunder and spurting rain- and the madness than ran through Victor as he waltzed the steps of a scientific breakthrough. This collection of poetry gives breath to the creatures that run from the torches, a voice to the damned that speak without tongues, and a heartbeat to the corpses that walk the cobblestone streets looking for their lost loves. Dietrich weaves the lyricism of perspective through the eyes of monsters as readers are reintroduced to the stories we grew up thinking we knew. Like the doctor himself, Dietrich makes incisions to old tales and resurrects new life through adaptations and outlooks that had yet to be explored. His words are sublime as they take on the nostalgia of the old and the reverence of the new, but it is his uncanny ability to relate to the monsters and feel their pain and confusion that make the words bleed off the page. Each piece is an awakening. It is a lesson, a kiss, and a teardrop. The Monstrance collects the other side of the story and reiterates that not everything is what it seems to be at first glance. Dietrich shows us that love can be found in death, that it can be created from spare parts and shoved out into the world without first being taught how to walk, how to speak, how to feel. It becomes easy to allow oneself to be swept up in the abandonment, the curiosity, and the stark realization that the world isn’t divided by black and white, but rather swimming in shades of gray. But it is in that subtle mist that truth and acceptance run like banshees through the woods. It is in that fog that the creatures take off their masks and reveal who they truly are. As both a poet and a fan of classic horror, I found myself consumed by the raw unearthing of human emotion. The narrator does not once cheat his readers of his opinion, and when he gives a glimpse into his life, no matter how wonderful or how awful it may be, he holds our hand and shows us the way. Because of this, Dietrich’s poems are like dark shades of light. They are mixtures of good and bad, of accuracy and farce, and they flee from stereotypes much like the monster from the flame. With a combined style of literary and genre, The Monstrance questions as much as it answers. It covers as much as it reveals and like the ability to bring the dead back to life, it frightens as much as it excites. Each piece is a story. It is a memory, a fable, and memoir. It is told from the lips of a child, an adult, and a lover. And it is felt by all.   —Stephanie M. Wytovich