Not Your Average Monster {Anthology}

One of the things I love most about being a reviewer is that I get to talk to so many different people all over the country – and even people outside the country. I was talking with author Pete Kahle recently and he told me that he had started a publishing house called Bloodshot Books. I told him that if he needed any reviews, to let me know. He passed along a Kindle copy of Not Your Average Monster! A Bestiary of Horrors, along with some of the other titles. Along with the book came a warning about his story, which is featured last in the anthology. He told me that it was a gross-out. I don’t really think that was an adequate description! (To my absolute horror, I found myself attempting to eat while reading it, because I didn’t want to put the anthology down. Without giving too many spoilers, I’m really struggling with the thought of eating rice any time in the next month or so!)

{Before I go into the review proper, I want to make sure that my readers are aware if they want to read Bloodshot Books, they can either borrow them on with Kindle Unlimited or purchase them from in digital or traditional format.}

Not Your Average Monster is a page-turner filled with talent. I know I said a few paragraphs up that I love anthologies, but don’t let that weaken my claim. The monsters contained in the pages of this anthology defy title. The only other time I’ve encountered a lamia in horror literature or cinema was Sam Raimi’s Drag Me to Hell. Kahle managed to find not one, but TWO lamia in one story.

The remaining monsters in this tome don’t have a name. They seem to be pulled right from the shared human subconscious, from the days where we were little more than primitives scratching stick figures in caves by firelight. The monsters Kahle has collected come for you in sunlight, in darkness, but always with teeth and deadly intent. I’m not afraid to admit that they scared me so badly that I had nightmares. But you know, I couldn’t put my finger on exactly which monster did it. Was it the horrible two-legged beasts rampaging through a school as a little girl tries desperately to hide? Or the boojum, a nasty sort of beastie that one girl must defeat using the advice of the Parliament of cats, before it can come back and finish the job it started? Or the story of the family in the tunnel, who survive a horrific pile-up only to find themselves fighting shapeless monsters? Maybe it was the parasite hidden deep within a cave, stumbled on by some friends reliving their wilder days. It could have been the spirits summoned by human hatred and bloodlust to the carnage of a battlefield, to claim souls for their own.

Truth be told, I think it was all of them. There wasn’t a single weak story in this entire anthology, and I’ve only scratched the surface of what horrors lurk within. I don’t want to rob any readers of the terror and surprise waiting for them in Not Your Average Monster! A Bestiary of Horrors.

There is a second volume, Not Your Average Monster, Vol. 2: A Menagerie of Vile Beasts, which you better believe is high up on my to-read list! There are two main reasons I’m not jumping right into the second volume. Firstly, the stories are like a horror buffet. I don’t want to run through it all at once. Secondly, I’m well and spoiled for other anthologies, probably for the rest of my life. This is hands-down one of the best anthologies I’ve ever read. And, well, I lied, there’s three reasons. Kahle has not confirmed the intent to publish a third volume (to the best of my knowledge). I don’t want to go through everything now and be left like an addict without a fix.

Oh, and if you’re stuck for what to get mom for Mother’s Day? Well, here you go! Volume 1 and 2 make great gifts for your favorite horror hounds! Or for yourself, if you’re looking to sample the work of several extremely talented authors all in one place.

Love…With a Dark Twist

I love anthologies! It’s like eating at a buffet. You get to sample all sorts of delicacies – enough to whet your appetite, but not so much that you get tired. In the horror genre, it seems the list of rom zom com pictureanthologies is never ending. There are carnival zombie anthologies, animal zombie anthologies, Victorian zombie and ghost anthologies. And now this. Rom Zom Com. It’s an anthology chock-full of zombie stories based on romance and comedy.

Yes – I know exactly what you’re thinking. And that’s definitely a crazy mix. Some of the authors pulled it off beautifully – and some delivered romantic zombie stories with sharp biting irony. My favorite story is about a guy trying to impress the girl of his dreams – while she only has eyes for another. The beauty of the story is that just when you think you know everything, the author pulls the rug out from under you, and the story takes on a whole different perspective. I guarantee you won’t see it coming! Another favorite is a story of two lovers who are separated, and reunited during a chance meeting. So far, not so exciting. But the way they hold the zombies at bay is one of the most unique I’ve read yet! In another story, a man does everything he can to keep his friends from finding out the truth – and someone else will pay the price for his hidden identity. In yet another, a family struggles to keep it together while one hides their true identity.

The only fault I can find in this book, is that it’s heavy on romance and short on humour. But that’s only if you’re looking for traditional comedy. The stories contained in Rom Zom Com lean more towards irony and sarcasm. They flip the viewer’s perceptions and play with them – turning everyday courting and marital situations into something altogether new. It’s an interesting and cheeky read, and I recommend it to everyone – but especially those who favor their zombies a little more light-hearted!

A super strange and exciting anthology…

I bought “The Best of All Flesh” at a local bookstore because I wasn’t ready to start another book series, but I was running out of zombie material on my bookshelf.  I like to alternate book series with anthologies so that I don’t get bored with either book style.  Anyways, this book sounded interesting because it was selected material from all three of the Books of Flesh Anthology Series.  I still want to get the other three books, but I figured it would be a nice way of finding out if the books were worth getting immediately, or worth holding off on buying.  After reading the composite anthology, I really do want to track the other books down !

The book was astounding !  I loved almost every single story in this book, and I found that the ideas were all fresh and new.  The zombie types ranged from voodoo to modern and everything in between.

One of the stories by Myke Cole, “Shouting Down the Moon”, was really sad.  It’s about two lovers who are separated by their enemies and attempt to reunite after death.  This story is also about two warring tribes, and features voodoo-infused zombism.

Barry Holander’s story “Familiar Eyes” deals with a husband who cannot accept the fact that the mud-covered corpse that keeps coming after him is just a shell, and not his wife.  He repeatedly defies government orders and does not burn her body.  An interesting twist on the zombie myth – the longer the bodies are exposed to the air and not cremated, the more indestructible they become.  Another twist is that the zombies come back for the person they loved the most when they were alive, once that person is dead, they go back to their graves.

“Sitting with the Dead” by Shane Stewart explores the idea of speaking with the dead.  In the story, a man sits with his grandmother in the funeral home and talks with her and waits for her to turn into a ravenous cannibal corpse.  Meanwhile they say all the things that should have been said when she was alive.

I don’t like tight spaces and crowds make me nervous, so the story “Charlie’s Hole” by Jesse Bullington was really terrifying for me.  During the Vietnam War, a small group of soldiers are forced to go down into a tunnel presumably made by the enemy.  While down in the tunnel they are pursued by creatures, and cross paths with a terrifying old sage.  While every story in this book was amazing, this is probably the scariest (for me personally).  The ending is a real surprise too !

Immediately following Stewart’s story is Jeremy Zoss’ offering, “Electric Jesus and the Living Dead”, which I was apprehensive about at first.  I’m not overly religious to the point of being preachy, but I do get nervous about how some authors portray God during the zombie apocalypse.  Despite the fact that Jesus is a talking electrical statue in Las Vegas, this story wasn’t offensive.  Actually, it was pretty funny.  During the zombie apocalypse this stereotypical fat, spoiled, video gaming teenager is stranded in his house.  After a little while with no food he begins to hallucinate that his mother’s cherished Jesus statue is answering his prayers and discussing a means of escape.  Instead of finding a patient, loving savior, the teen finds that the statue is cheeky. In one of my favorite scenes, the statue tells the kid to stop carrying on because he never prayed before and that if the kid doesn’t like it, Jesus will move on and tend to the members of his flock that prayed to Him before everything went down the drain.

I don’t want to give you a synopsis of all the stories in the book, but I am deadnut serious when I say that you absolutely MUST have this book.  The stories are very interesting and well thought-out.  This is also a rare book in that all of the stories are worth reading.  There wasn’t a single story that I disliked or thought was less interesting than the rest.  No, the authors aren’t very well known but they still have talent.  I would not hesitate to read another story written by any of them.  Seriously – go out and buy this book.  You won’t regret it !  “The Best of All Flesh” will not be a disappointment !

Smashing Anthology!

If you haven’t guessed by now, I’m a big fan of Kim Paffenroth’s writing style.  My next step was to see what stories he would pick if left to his own devices.  My prayers were answered with his anthology “The World is Dead”.  Paffenroth chose to divide his book into four categories : Work, Family, Love, and Life.  There are four stories in each category, excepting the last which has six stories.

I read this book in a weekend, while I was on vacation with my boyfriend.  I was up all night long with a ferocious cold and had brought “The World is Dead” in anticipation of having time to read.

All the stories were really good, and at the end I wound up feeling more sad about the end of the world than terrified.  The stories dealt with life after the dead had risen, and how we as a society would adapt to the new living conditions.  Some stories described people who went insane and became murderers, others lived their lives as though nothing happened.  More than a few people found ways to creatively join their loved ones in death.

David C. Pinnt’s story “Working Man’s Burden” is set in a meat packing factory where the dead are employed in the killing, cutting, and packaging of the meat.  [This story made me think twice about my chicken finger sub dinner, that’s for sure!]  The catch is that the dead are controlled by remote, and when they’re about to go homicidal, a person in a control room is warned.  Apparently there really is no substitute for an old-fashioned workforce.

Gustavo Bondoni’s “Bridge over the Cunene” is a story in the Family category.  A village has learned that they must make a sacrifice to the dead in order to preserve the well-being of their village.  The sacrifice is usually an animal, but things go wrong one day when the sacrifice is left behind and a young mother must decide who to give to the dead: herself or her son.  [I wound up crying at the end of this story.  Don’t think you’ve guessed the ending – I guarantee whatever you guess isn’t as sad as the actual story.]

If the world in David Wellington’s “Dead Man’s Land” ever comes true, we’re all in deep trouble.  In this story, during the outbreak people took refuge in stores like WalMart and Home Depot.  The managers of these stores became the kings of a feudal kingdom.  The people who were refused shelter in these stores met one of two fates.  Either they were eaten and joined the undead horde, or they were employed as runners between the other stores.  In short, goodbye democracy and women’s rights.  Even though this story is found in the Life category, I’m not sure if its much of a life to lead.

“The World is Dead” is a good book for anyone looking to escape the gore of the usual zombie story and gain some humanity.