This was a great anthology!!
A whole motley slew of 21 gamut busting stories. Topics ranging from werewolves to clowns to sammiches to explosive acne and everything else in between, inside out, and upside down. It’s all covered, so much variety.
I do really like antho’s that don’t follow a set topic, you have no idea what the next tale will bring, such a surprise treat that way.
And HAHAHA the writers included their actual shopping lists before their stories. What a clever little running gag and the only thing that links any of these shorts.
Some of their shopping lists were just as disturbing as their stories….
I’ve actually never heard of any of these indie authors with the exceptions of Tim Miller and David Owain Hughes. I’ve read bunches by those amazing horror authors, so of course I was super anxious to get to their tales but found myself pleasantly sated with all the other delicious digestables on the buffet table.
For those familiar with my review style, you know this is gonna take a while, I have to (have to!) meticulously tread through each tale.
Ad nauseam, some have claimed…
I don’t take offence to brisk skimming. 😀
Oh and I finger tallied the page counts with my kindle at its lowest setting so they are kind of accurate-ish.
Coach Augustine: Smoke and Claws ~ Robert Over 17 pgs
This coach is a tutor in more than just a sport-sy way, he is on call 24/7 to help his students, even when they’re feeling waaay off-game. It’s his goal. Middle of the night distress call from a good kid with a bright future, this dedicated coach grabs his bag of supplies, plus magic aids, to help with a non-lunar flare-up.
Hate it when that happens, teenagers and their hormones…
* An exciting and wild little coming of supernatural age tale.
Shopping List: he’s obviously gonna make a badass casserole in clean clothes while getting his buzz on. A culinary master.
Speed of Shadow ~ Christopher O’Halloran 17 pgs
Tracy is a smart and observant girl, learning about the speed of light in class, she’s got this all figured out. Driving back to her mom’s with her big brother and dad one day, those ‘figures‘ speed up on them in a terrifyingly foreshadowing way.
* So tense and dramatic, you feel like you’re in that car. So claustrophobic.
Shopping list: This writer cares about all the others in his household (human and non) more than himself. Awww
Cold Cuts ~ Eric W. Burgin 22pgs
Hugh loves having a bestie, he can only have one at a time though cause he gives it 100%. The bond of friendship is a tightly bonded bond, downright adhesive/…clingwrapy.
Hugh needs to have his new friend Jared around, all the time, because that’s what friends are for, right?? He feels like he’s the perfect host, the perfect friend. He makes some mean gourmet sandwiches, serves up plenty of brew, and countless rounds of play-by-play sports on demand. A story of bromance, love, and loss…and unrequited friendship.
* A page turner, couldn’t wait to find out what was going to happen next. FUN and fast paced story. And it made me really hungry.
Shopping List: Something exotic is on the menu.
Deathlust ~ Russ Gartz 14 pgs
A period piece set in the 1400’s Spain about the Holy Inquisition, the citadel, a feud, a love story, bloodlust, a…deathlust, that demands to be fed. There is a holy war brewing in Spain and the vampires are lapping it up as they align themselves with the double-cross retribution at play. Things are as not as cut throat and dagger as they appear.
* That time period already scares the crap outta me, add in vampires and holy men ~ oh my.
Shopping List: Yep, seems like he’s got, all ends….covered.
Touch Me, I’m Sick ~ Mark Slade 14 pgs
You can’t always control physical attraction even if you are not exactly available but what if the consequence of such sexually gratifying compulsions had deeper repercussions than just spurned spouses?? Could you suppress your desires then, they are not set in stone, are they?
* A clever little fidelity challenged cautionary tale. Heed the warning.
Shopping List: Only missing the beer for a fab picnic, must be byob, I’m there!
The House of the Skinwalker ~ Jeff Baker 14pgs
Spring break, friends headed to Mexico….nothing bad ever happens there, right?? Well, before their spring even has a chance to break-out, New Mexico has a go. Altered realities crash, converge, and blur at the Fire Hills Motel on sacred Native American land.
* Eerie mythos of a dispiriting native nature that’s more than just folktale.
Shopping List: Short and really sweet, especially if that last item pans out nicely.
Backne ~ Tim Miller 8 pgs
Jerry is a factory worker who deals with hazmat labeled substances, he doesn’t really like his job very much at all, especially when he has to forklift them from high up all around the warehouse, that can be a real scary bitch. One such barrel leaks on him, a bit. What he goes through next, even Proactive couldn’t help with..
A lot of dark humor in this one, in between the gagging.
* 3rd time I’ve read this disgusting tale, give me blood and guts and I’m A-OK, I don’t fare as well with pus and slime….so ew.
Tim Miller is such a fun and outrageous writer!
Shopping list: All for research, I’m sure…he’s so method.
The House on the Back Road ~ Nick Swain 25 pgs
Bickering married couple, on a road trip to the wife’s sister’s place. He’s a car dealer and she’s a nagging hag, yea, she’s a real piece of work. He’s adapted to her speciality blend of vulgarities, even coined a few towards her. Getting a shortcut route to avoid a traffic jam from a nice local man, he decides to take that scenic, don’t want to anger the wifey…they are already late and she has no coffee. A not that uncommon violent outburst causes him to lose control on that long desolate road. Guess they are on a walkabout now. What happens next, well….
* Fabulous story and I LOVED all the petty feuding. I got a strong Creepshow vibe, the one called The Crate.
Shopping List: I wanna dine and be entertained at Swain’s house!!
The Kick ~ JC Raye 15 pgs
OHHHH a western story, the old west complete with a general store, saloon, jailhouse, barber, town doc/reverend/banker/constable and a few cretins.
A simple town called Bodie. Uncontrollable fits of anger and sudden impulses kicked off with a gaudy hat. Is there something in the watering hole, in the air??
* EXCELLENT and I wanted more, a berserk western, oh yea!!
Shopping List: an odd list, prepping for an odd party?? Eh, I’d attend.
A Nightcap with Selena ~ Jovan Jones 25 pgs
A bar hook up takes a long-term turn for the worse for nice guy Donovan. Selena, she’s so alluring, so beautiful, a bit strange but he’s okay with that.
Nightmares, hallucinations, visions…reality….what the hell is happening to the poor guy.
At least he has the lovely Selena to take care of him.
* Bizarre and sultry tale with driblets of black ooze and maggots.
Shopping List: Mouth wateringly delicious, a full menu of good eats. So meaty!
Breaking Ahab ~ Ben Stevens 22pgs
A grieving husband has turned to drink, he just can’t face it all, and he really couldn’t care less that an arrogant city detective has come to investigate him. Guess they don’t believe his whole Giant Squid story. He misses his beautiful wife so much, she loved the water, she loved the boat. Why did they have to go out that night?
* Such an amazing story drowning in a riptide of emotions that takes a Lovecraftian twist.
Shopping List: No actual sustenance but a fulfilling list none the less!
The Cypress Wood Terror ~ David F. Gray 19pgs
Dean is a film editor for a small post-production company. He was lucky enough to find his soulmate on the job, unlucky enough to get caught in the cross-over cuts of a temporal digital threat. Where to go, where to hide??
* Really enjoyed all the behind the scenes movie making, it’s always been an interest. This story was so unique and original. It could be on Black Mirror!
Shopping List: Health scare, system in shock.
The Shine ~ Brandon Cracraft 21pgs
In a way this one is the most horrifying of the bunch. Picture those holier than thou, self-righteous religious fanatics. Now picture they are college kids, and there is an app for that.
The Campus Crusaders want to expunge your many many sins ~ REPENT!
* OH Good Lord, horrifying indeed. Technology and bible thumpers make for an ungodly mix…
Shopping List: Short and sweet, an in-and-out trip to the grocers.
A Charm for the Shadows ~ M.S. Swift 22pgs
Verity is older gal living with and taking care of her mom. Her mom, who is still spry enough to date makes Verity feel even more alone. Some strange happenings at the decades long vacant house across the way, it seems bustling as of late. Is it the imaginings of a lonely woman or is there something vindictively malevolent going on….
* An atmospheric somber tale with a retributive reach out that grabs ya.
Shopping List: Getting ready for a witchy potluck…
The Cadenza ~ Kevin Holton 16pgs
Victim of a violent crime strips a man of his confidence and livelihood, his symphonic overture days long over. Now living as a hermit at some motel far from home, and forming a bond with the wise and appealing proprietor, he may just find a new handicraft vocation to brighten his cripplingly dull days. A brand new prelude to perform, offbeat yet harmonious, his magnum opus…his purpose of life.
* This was great story, had no idea where it was going. It was moody and expressive, I could hear the classical music playing in the background.
Shopping List: A particularly specific mix. Don’t forget the tuna!!
Blackout ~ David Owain Hughes 7pgs
Jennifer is recently single and now lives alone. The house is too quiet and she’s just trying to go about her normal Friday night routine. Ya know, reading, wine, over-thinking things….wondering what all those strange sounds are.
* Creepy, creepy, creeeeepy, and that ending gave me chills. I always recommend anything Hughes, he’s a keeper. Aaand a peeper!
Shopping List: Scary….but everything about David scares me so at least he’s consistent!
Zeitgeist ~ Bertram Allan Mullin 20pgs
American man moves to Japan to be an English teacher and falls face first into one of those authentically scary as hell Japanese movies, you know the ones…the ones us Americans always butcher. All he was looking for was a bit of culture, now he’s shackled in an interrogation room, barely knowing the language and less-than-barely remembering what brought him there.
Hmm maybe he should have gone to North Korea instead….
* LOVED IT! That slow reveal ~ holy #*$@!
Shopping List: Incredibly healthy, my system really would go into shock unless some of that was deep fried!
The Lights Unseen ~ Jeff C. Stevenson 27pgs
Long time paranormal researcher Jack and his team of investigators are always on the hunt for authentic supernatural occurrences, getting an email about a strange house one day puts him in contact with a realtor named Carly. What she tells him about said property excites him to the bone…could this be it?? But what is it and how can it be…
* What an interesting take on the haunted house story, goes in an all new direction. Very eerie.
Shopping List: Kitties are cared for and at least there is ice cream.
Carnaval Macabro ~ Sebastian Crow 17pgs
A flourishing novelist grows tired of big city life, he’s taking scenic stops in the beautiful and picturesque coastal countryside towns, looking for a new place to settle.
It’s all so tranquil, so serene, home is where the heart is. Finding the perfect time killer before the settle in a carnival clown town island escape, it’s all so evocative….but home always finds a way to pull you back.
* Totally enjoyed all the ambiance of this one and then I waited for it…..yep, nope, didn’t see that coming. What a twist ending!
Shopping List: Starting from scratch it looks like. Must have just moved in, or he was robbed by a pack of peckish burglars….either way, hope it’s payday!
Daddy, I’m So Hungry ~ S.E. Rise 19pgs
A family of four living way up north. Long cold winters, long dark days. The kids are playful, the wife is seasonally depressed, the patriarch is just trying to keep them all safe, warm, and happy. The shadows though…the shadows are tricky. It’s all about adapting. But a man is only so strong, physically and mentally.
* What a mind bender of a tale, it was so captivating, and saddening. I pictured lots of quick cuts.
Shopping List: Periodic comfort food with a European twist and maybe a DIY project for the meantime.
The Stranger ~ Kathy Dinisi 30pgs
Young mother April does her best to provide for her daughter which unfortunately means being on the road a lot as a photographer for a fashion mag. Several hours of driving left before she gets to her baby girl, is she getting road worn or is she being followed, taunted, and threatened by a hooded man in a black truck??? Some short cuts aren’t for a destination home.
* A tense and gripping page turner with increasingly foreboding chapter titles made this quite a riveting read. I didn’t want it to end.
Shopping List: The makings of some of my favorites eats plus that sweet tooth satiated.
THAT’S IT, all 21 of em!! I’m not quite done yet though….
LOL so anyway, I’ve learned I’m incapable of picking a top 3 in collections but here are a handful of my favorites, they are all so good and well written but these ones just impacted a little deeper, and harder.
Cold Cuts: Lively duo, plenty of suspense. I craved, caved, and made a killer sandwich.
Backne: So damn gross and so damn entertaining. Made me almost upchuck me sammich.
The House on Back Road: The quarreling couple were so delightful, perfect ending!
The Kick: The western setting and all the deranged goings-on made this a prospected golden gem.
Breaking Ahab: Heartbreaking and mysterious. Kept me really intrigued from page 1.
The Cadenza: A gritty tale of talent lost….talent stolen! And how a man who knows of nothing else, decides to cope and rise above.
Zeitgeist: Another great setting, Japanese horror is so damn unsettling and I vividly pictured this as one of those kinds of top-notch horror movies.
The Stranger: Pulse pounding with white knuckles, such a sweet gal and it’s so appalling what she’s having to go through on her road weary way home to her daughter.
And now I have a bunch of new writers to check out!
But the only thing I did find lacking in this here vast collection was the author bios after each story. For me, it really helps me to remember a new author if their mini bios, and any other titles available, are after their story.
Hellbound Books is really making a name for itself and with quality works like these, it’s well deserved. They also have The Big Book of Boot Leg Horror out now which is 20 tales of the taboo. I adore all things taboo.
More anthologies slated soon so I’m sure I’ll be back with much more of my over-analysis’sss.
You can buy the book here: