Posts Tagged ‘Kealan Patrick Burke’

BOOK INFO

Length: 210 Pages

Publisher: Wicked Run Books

Release Date: April 12, 2017

Review copy provided by publisher in exchange for an honest review

Garden of Fiends opens with a pretty eye-opening introduction from Mark Matthews’, who put together this collection that details the horrors of addictions. There are numerous lines in this introduction that could some up this collection, but the one that stands out to me the most deals with the definition of horror itself. “Horror is just the volume of life turned up so high the reality breaks through the confines of normal everyday limits and explodes in a bloody mess.” That is a powerful and apt description of both what horror means and the stories that make up Garden of Fiends. What makes this introduction and collection as a whole stand apart – aside from the stellar writing found in the stories contained within – is that Matthews’ has seen these horrors first hand. Not only as someone who has battled addiction, but also through his work as a substance abuse therapist. He sees these horrors every day, up close and personal. I remember when I first heard about this project, which was when Matthews’ sent out the submission call. Just based on the premise alone, I was excited to read Garden of Fiends. A horror anthology that focuses on tales of addiction? I was hooked. Part of the reason was that it was a topic I could relate to. I may not have had to battle addiction directly, but it is something that has affected my family and something I have lived with for a large portion of my life. So did Garden of Fiends live up to the hype? You bet.

The first story is Kealan Patrick Burke’s “A Wicked Thirst”, a tale of a man who needs alcohol as a social lubricant, but quickly finds it consumes his life. Burke doesn’t waste any time hooking the reader as his story opens with a scene of the narrator drowning in a puddle with the only thought running through his mind is, “I am going to die“. The story quickly flashes back to a time when the narrator is on a date, before he ends up battling a nemesis that is determined to witness his demise. His addiction has robbed him of his smile, but he seems to accept it and the situation he finds himself in. Burke nails the extent of this man’s addiction through anecdotes and internal monologues that reveal the reason for his addiction and the ways it has impacted his life. While the mystery of who is attacking the narrator is creepy and ramps up the tension, this story shines due to the detail Burke gives to the narrator’s addiction and the things that it had cost him. This story details the loneliness and the depths addiction will bring you. Structurally, I liked how Burke alternates between scenes of the narrator recalling his date and fighting back against the person intent on breaking him until the story lines merge.

Jessica McHugh’s “The One in the Middle” is a tale that follows the life of Perry, a man who is addicted to atlys, a drug that is similar to heroin. Perry lives in an abandoned high school with other atlys users and is left only with the memories of a lost lover and the desire to score atlys, whatever the cost. This story differs a little from the others in that it takes place in a futuristic society, but the core of the story is the same and the horrors are all too real. Throughout “The One in the Middle”, readers experience the lengths people who have addictions will go to in order to try to satisfy the need that has taken over their bodies. I won’t get into it too much, but let’s just say most of the residents of the city who can’t afford atlys on their own resort to a practice known as “potsticking” to get their fix. It is something that will make your stomach churn, but is the perfect vehicle to demonstrate the desperation people with addiction go through. McHugh’s contribution works well as a standalone story, but is taken from a novel called  The Green Kangaroos. After reading this story and being impressed by the rich characterization and extensive world-building, I need to grab a copy of that novel!

Max Booth III’s “Everywhere You’ve Bled and Everywhere You Will” follows a recovering heroin addict named Jeremy. He seems to have his life back on track, but quickly finds himself in a situation that fractures his mind and puts his sobriety in jeopardy. The less I say about this story the better because it really is one you need to read to believe and any type of summary I attempt to come up with will spoil the experience. I will say that it is likely to be a divisive story in this collection that readers will either love or hate, I don’t think there will be too much middle ground on this one. I love that Booth holds nothing back in this story and I am not ashamed to say this story made me cringe more than once. There are scenes in this story that seem like hallucinogenic nightmares and though they will make you squirm, it’s hard to tear your eyes away from the page. This is the first time I have read Booth’s work but considering the dark, twisted images that will be seared into my brain for a long, long time, I have a feeling it won’t be my last!

While many of the stories in Garden of Fiends are longer, Johann Thorsson offers up a chilling flash fiction piece called “First, Bite Just a Finger”. It follows a woman named Julia, who is invited to a peculiar party where she ties something for the first time that quickly consumes her every thought. Not only does this flash fiction piece accurately portray what addiction is and the hold it takes on those who have faced it, the core of the story also represents what addiction can do to a person both physically and mentally.

“Last Call” by John F.D. Taff is the only story I was familiar with prior to reading Garden of Fiends and is one that stuck with me because it raises questions that I could relate to personally. This story follows a man named Ted, who is an alcoholic that has been through many AA groups, but can’t seem to shake the addiction that has taken over his life. However, at one particular meeting, right when Ted thinks he may have to move on yet again, his sponsor offers him a way out. It is a last-ditch effort from someone who truly cares about Ted, but he offers him up a warning – this is your last chance. This is an entertaining story with a twist that I truly didn’t see coming until it was too late. Even when you figure out where Taff is leading you, the ending still leaves a lasting emotional impact. Taff is one of my favorite writers and I never fail to be impressed with his mastery of the short story format.

“Torment of the Fallen” by Glen Krisch is an entertaining and chilling story that follows Maggie, a girl who has been on the run for most of her life due to her unique gift. She has no real connections in the real world, but finds solace in the persona she has created online. It is through her online network that she finds information about her estranged father, tied to a story about paranormal phenomena. She leaves in search of answers, but what she uncovers is something she never could have prepared to face. I loved this story and my only real complaint is that I wish there was more!

Mark Matthews’ “Garden of Fiends” is an intriguing story that follows the life of Tara Snyder and her family. Matthews story has a gritty, realistic feel and not only offers the perspective of Tara and her struggles with addiction, but the perspective of her father who would do anything to save her. I loved this story and it really brings home the pain that addiction causes to anyone unlucky enough to be snared in its path. I also enjoyed the surprise Matthews’ had in store for those who were already fans of his work. I remember the first time I read Matthews’ work and I knew I was going to be a fan for life. He adds a level of realism to his work that amplifies the horrors that he unleashes because you feel like they could happen to you, even if aspects of the story defy explanation. If you have yet to experience Matthews’ brand of fiction, do yourself a favor and pick up a copy of Lily’s Tale: The Milk-Blood Trilogy. You won’t be disappointed.

The collection wraps up with Jack Ketchum’s “Returns”. The narrator witnesses his wife Jill as her life begins spiraling out of control due to her drinking and she begins neglecting every aspect of their life, including caring for their cat Zoey. Unfortunately for him, he is powerless to stop her despite his best efforts. “Returns” may be a little short, but it’s a powerful story that is sure to tug on your heartstrings.

Addiction has impacted the lives of so many people, and I think this collection will really resonate with readers. I loved the variety of stories and there is something for every horror fan whether your tastes run more toward the extreme or the subtle end of the spectrum. A brilliant and original concept, Garden of Fiends captures the struggles of addiction and the horrors they inflict on those affected by it. Yes, it is dark and visceral, but with moments of hope throughout that make this a memorable collection of stories. Matthews’ has put together something truly special with Garden of Fiends, and there is no doubt in my mind that this will end up as one of my favorite collections of the year.

Rating: 5/5

LINKS

Wicked Run Press /Mark Matthews Official Website

Purchase Garden of Fiends: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or grab a copy from your favorite bookstore!

BOOK INFO

Length: 102 Pages

Publisher: Sinister Grin Press

Release Date: April 22, 2017

Review copy provided as part of Cut Corners Vol.3  Blog Tour

Since starting up The Horror Bookshelf, I have been lucky enough to discover a ton of quality small presses that are releasing quality horror and helping to keep the genre alive and well. I have a host of favorites, but one press that has been catching my attention as of late has been Sinister Grin Press out of Austin, Texas. I think the first time I discovered them was through reviewing Jonathan Janz’s stellar Children of the Dark . They host an impressive roster of authors – many of whom I consider among my personal favorites – and are one of those types of presses where I know I will love anything they release.

Cut Corners Vol. 3 is the latest installment in Sinister Grin Press’ Cut Corners series. Cut Corners is a collection of three stories from some of the biggest names in horror and this is my first journey into the collection.  I haven’t read any of the other volumes (yet!), but what I enjoyed about this volume is that it centers around timely topics in society. Whether it is our addiction to our technological devices or fascination with celebrity culture, there is an eerie amount of things that readers can recognize in the world around them.

Cut Corners Vol. 3 kicks off with a new one from Kealan Patrick Burke called “Andromeda”.  This story follows a girl named Hannah, who is glued to her cell phone almost constantly and seems to be more at ease finds within the virtual world than the one around her. She has a strained relationship with her mom, who doesn’t get her daughter’s attachment to her virtual life and tries her hardest to get Hannah to interact with her friends at school and experience her idea of a “normal” life. While arguing with her mom, she stumbles across an article that mentions something weird occurring in the Baltic Sea. She has an interest in weird phenomena, so she files the story away to read that night. It isn’t much later that she gets a bizarre text that she writes off due to having a number that used to belong to someone else. While hanging out with her friend Fiona, they begin to notice strange things happening around them, but find every reason to write them off as normal. However, it doesn’t take long for Hannah and Fiona that something is really off in their town and it will test the very boundaries of their sanity.

While all three of the stories in Cut Corners Vol. 3 are real treats for horror fans, “Andromeda” is easily my favorite. This is a tough one to talk about without spoiling some of the events that occur within, but there are a few stories that this reminded me of as I was reading it. There is nothing overly terrifying or bloody in “Andromeda”, but that doesn’t keep Burke from crafting some chilling moments that stick with you long after reading. What makes this story such a blast to read is the small, unsettling moments that Burke sprinkles throughout the story to indicate just what sort of danger Hannah and Fiona finds themselves in. Although there are some truly disturbing and creepy moments that readers are able to see, what makes “Andromeda” stand out is the use of dialogue (the message from Hannah’s mother…yikes!)  and ordinary situations being warped into something strange. I love stories like that. It builds a sense of dread and confusion as you try to piece together the mystery unfolding on the page. Burke conjures up a foreboding atmosphere that permeates every page of “Andromeda” and kept me glued to this story until the very end!

Bryan Smith’s “The Barrel” is another story that utilizes an intriguing mystery to snare readers, and “The Barrel” starts with some strangeness right off the bat. Martin Sanchez is a recently divorced man whose life is now in shambles, with nothing eventful happening in his life since the divorce. That is until he wakes up one morning to find a mysterious black barrel in his back yard when he lets his dogs out. The barrel is seemingly ordinary, but when his dogs notice it, they are in full-on attack mode and growl at it. Martin’s imagination runs wild at what could be contained in the barrel and he struggles with how to handle his bizarre new discovery.

I love how Smith ties The Barrel’s arrival into social media with the use of #blackbarrel, the pull of a social media game almost impossible to resist. Also, I can’t tell you how many times I have encountered something strange and used the internet to figure out what the hell it is. Though if a mysterious black barrel showed up in my yard, I don’t think that would be my first reaction! While the subject matter of the two are wildly different, I couldn’t help but think of the final scene from Seven while reading this story. What makes this story interesting is that for a bulk of it, the reader’s imagination is the focal point of the story. There could be literally anything in that barrel, and being a horror story, I’m sure readers will conjure up all sorts of wild and imaginative scenarios. While this is the strength of the story in my opinion, it is also part of the minor issue I had with the story. After conjuring up all sorts of wild scenarios, the reveal was a bit of a let down. Don’t get me wrong, Smith still does some original things after the reveal, but I was hoping for something a little different. That being said, “The Barrel” is still an enjoyable story.

The final story in the collection comes from Ray Garton, the only author to appear in every installment of Cut Corners. “Afterparty” follows the life and career of Jarrett Baffometti, the biggest pop star in the world. Cy Weintraub is his manager and gained wealth through working with some of the biggest stars in the entertainment business. Jarrett’s career has been going off the rails as of late, racking up D.U.I’s and other arrests and falling down a rabbit hole of drugs. Cy knows that things are bad and has seen it with other young stars he has managed, but he feels that something is different with Jarrett’s situation. When he arrives at Jarrett’s mansion, he discovers a surreal scene that proves his suspicions were correct. Garton then takes readers back five years to show how Jarrett’s career really launched after attending a mysterious cocktail party at the request of his manager who promises that if he just does what the hosts say and makes a good impression, he will be set for life. Sounds easy enough, and Jarrett is no stranger to partying. However, when he shows up at the mansion, he realizes that nothing could have prepared him for that night.

Cy is an interesting character, possibly even more so than the mysterious group that has such an interest in Jarrett’s career. Without getting too much into the plot, let’s just say it’s hard to pinpoint his exact allegiances. I wasn’t quite sure how I would feel about this story going in, but by the end, I was blown away. Garton throws a little bit of everything into this story and yet it all works to make for a delightfully strange and creepy story. Garton’s story is a little more extreme than the others and is filled with drugs, sex, violence and the allure of fame. I loved the little twists added within the story. While the group’s motivations and goals seem fairly straightforward, there is an aspect of their plans that I didn’t anticipate. “Afterparty” works extremely well as a short story, but I can’t help but think of the potential it has as a novel. I would love to learn more about this mysterious group and the process behind their agenda.

While I will always love losing myself in horror novels, I am finding myself being drawn to shorter horror fiction lately, whether it be short stories or novellas. This probably has to do with my new schedule, but there is also something to be said for a shorter format for horror. While I love expansive world-building and watching the terror of these stories slowly unfold, there is something visceral about the immediate impact of the short story. Cut Corners Vol. 3 is an excellent collection that is a perfect introduction for readers who are new to horror or for die-hard horror fans looking for a quick read from some of the best writers in the genre!

Rating: 4/5

LINKS

Sinister Grin Press’ Official Website

Purchase Cut Corners Vol. 3: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Sinister Grin Press, or grab a copy from your favorite bookstore!

Use these hashtags to help spread the word about Cut Corners, Volume 3! – #CutCorners3 #horrorshorts #SinisterGrinPress

Cut Corners, Volume 3 Synopsis

Late, dark nights are perfect for reading surreal and terrifying tales from some of the best story tellers in the horror business. Grit your teeth, sit by the fire pit, and be prepared to possibly not return from underneath the spell of their writing prowess, but if you do, we’re certain you’ll have a sinister smile to share. All these modern stories have an element of thought-provoking surprise and style.

“Andromeda” –Kealan Patrick Burke

A  grim story of a teen girl hooked to her cell phone that will make you think outside of your comfort level.  Kealan Patrick Burke is a hauntingly lyrical and original writer of horror that will leave you breathless.

“The Barrell” – Bryan Smith

When a surprise barrel shows up out of nowhere on the back stoop, and the dogs start to bark at it uncontrollably, Martin becomes very suspicious and intrigued.  Bryan Smith is a versatile and horrifying author who will leave you squeamish and chuckling.

“Afterparty” –   Ray Garton

Jarrett is getting famous on the entertainment scene, but what will he have to do to remain in the industry?  Brought to you by Ray Garton, a master of explicit detail and tense horror that entrances readers and doesn’t let them go.

About The Authors

Kealan Patrick Burke

Born and raised in a small harbor town in the south of Ireland, Kealan Patrick Burke knew from an early age that he was going to be a writer. The combination of an ancient locale, a horror-loving mother, and a family of storytellers, made it inevitable that he would end up telling stories for a living. Since those formative years, he has written five novels, over a hundred short stories, six collections, and edited four acclaimed anthologies. In 2004, he was honored with the Bram Stoker Award for his novella The Turtle Boy.

Kealan has worked as a waiter, a drama teacher, a mapmaker, a security guard, an assembly-line worker, a salesman (for a day), a bartender, landscape gardener, vocalist in a grunge band, curriculum content editor, fiction editor at Gothic.net, and, most recently, a fraud investigator.

When not writing, Kealan designs book covers through his company Elderlemon Design.

A number of his books have been optioned for film. You can find him at http://www.kealanpatrickburke.com.

Bryan Smith

Bryan Smith is the author of numerous novels and novellas, including Depraved, Slowly We Rot, The Killing Kind, and 68 KILL. The film adaptation of 68 KILL recently won the Midnighters audience award at SXSW. Bryan lives in TN with his wife Jenn and numerous animals. Visit his home on the web at thehorrorofbryansmith.blogspot.com and find him on his author fan page on Facebook.

Ray Garton

Ray Garton is the author of the classic vampire bestseller Live Girls, as well as Scissors, Sex and Violence in Hollywood, Ravenous, and dozens of other novels, novellas, tie-ins, and story collections. His new Moffet & Keoph investigation Vortex, the novella Crawlers, and his collection Wailing and Gnashing of Teeth are available for Kindle. He has been writing in the horror and suspense genres for more than 30 years and was the recipient of the Grand Master of Horror Award in 2006.  He lives in northern California with his wife Dawn where he is at work on a new novel.

Want to Feature?

If you’d like to review Cut Corners, Volume 3 by Burke, Garton, or Smith, please contact Erin Al-Mehairi, Sinister Grin publicist, at hookofabook@hotmail.com.

I am a bit late with my 2015 as the first month of 2016 is rapidly coming to a close, but I still wanted to take a minute and share some of my favorite reads from this year. 2015 was a great year here at The Horror Bookshelf. The blog celebrated its one year anniversary back in April, I made some great friends, I got to take part in SFSignal’s Mind Meld feature and I had the honor of premiering a brand new story from Glenn Rolfe.

I never really made a post for The Horror Bookshelf’s first anniversary, so I wanted to just take a minute and touch on a few things before getting to my list of favorite reads for the year. I started this blog as my way of giving back to the extremely talented writers who have created the books I enjoy reading and connecting with other horror fans. In that respect, I think the first year of The Horror Bookshelf was a huge success. I am so thankful for all of the writers and publishers who reached out to me and offered me review copies and words of encouragement along the way. Without you and the books you spend so much time crafting, The Horror Bookshelf would not exist. I also want to thank anyone who has ever taken the time to read any of my reviews, interviews or guest posts. There is no greater feeling as a reviewer than introducing someone to a potentially new favorite author or a great book and I hope that by visiting this site, you have found a few.

There are so many people to thank for helping this blog become what it is today, but I wanted to take a moment to thank a few special people who have shown me a humbling amount of support since the very beginning. A huge thank you to my friends and family, Tony and Sharon at Grey Matter Press, John F.D. Taff, David Spell, Mark Matthews, Dale Elster and Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi. You have all offered me so much support and tons of encouragement when The Horror Bookshelf was getting off the ground and I will always be grateful for that. I also want to thank my beautiful wife for encouraging me to follow my dreams and for giving me that boost of confidence I need when I feel like I can’t possibly keep everything going.

I am not usually big on New Year’s Resolutions, but what the hell, I came up with some for The Horror Bookshelf anyway.

1. Read more in 2016 – This one is fairly vague and for anyone that runs a review site, it sounds borderline crazy. I read a ton of great novels in 2016, but one of my biggest regrets was that I didn’t read that many novellas, short stories or anthologies this year. I hope to change that in 2016 and also to increase the amount of novels I read in a year.

2. Get more organized – I am notorious for my poor organizational habits, but I have already made some progress by using a planner (that my wife made me buy) to help me keep track of all my upcoming reviews, interviews and features. This may be the most mundane and boring resolution of the list, but it is an underrated part of keeping a review site going in my opinion.

3. Keeping the site updated more frequently – This may be the biggest challenge of them all. I am the only writer on The Horror Bookshelf and the amount of reviews I have going at any given time can be overwhelming, but I want to set a modest goal – starting in February – of posting at least once a week. Sort of on the same topic, if I owe you a review and have not posted it yet, I promise I haven’t forgotten! I appreciate every author that sends me a book for review and sometimes time gets away from me, but I promise I will get to them soon.

Here is a list of my favorite reads from 2015. I decided to go with a Top 10 for novels, a Top 5 for novellas and a Top 3 for Anthologies and Collections. Thanks for sticking with me this far and I hope you find some great new reads on this list!

1 . Brian Kirk We Are Monsters (Samhain Horror)

we are monsters

2. Richard Thomas Disintegration (Random House Alibi)

disintegration

3. Ronald Malfi Little Girls (Kensington)

ronaldmalfiLG

4. Ania Ahlborn Behind These Walls (Gallery Books)

withinthesewalls

5. Hunter Shea Tortures of the Damned (Kensington/Pinnacle)

TOTD

6. Jonathan Janz Wolf Land (Samhain Horror)

wolf-land

7. D. Alexander Ward Blood Savages (Necro Publications)

bloodsavages

8. Russell James Q Island (Samhain Horror)

QIsland

9. Glenn Rolfe Blood and Rain (Samhain Horror)

blood-and-rain

10. Kristopher Rufty Jagger (Sinister Grin Press)

jagger

Novellas

1. John F.D. Taff The Sunken Cathedral (Grey Matter Press)

TSC

2. Kealan Patrick Burke Sour Candy (Self-published)

sourcandy

3. Glenn Rolfe Abram’s Bridge (Samhain Horror)

abramsbridge

4. Adam Howe Gator Bait (Comet Press)

gatorbait

5. Matt Manochio Twelfth Krampus Night (Samhain Horror)

twelfth-krampus-night

Anthologies and Collections

1. Savage Beasts (Grey Matter Press)

savagebeasts

2. Todd Keisling Ugly Little Things – Volume One (Precipice Books)

uglylittlethings

3. Tony Knighton Happy Hour and Other Philadelphia Cruelties (Crime Wave Press) 

happy hour