Wayward Kindred by Allison O’Toole

Wayward Kindred
By: Allison O’Toole

Monstrous families both spooky and sweet

They say that blood is thicker than water, but you may wish it weren’t, if your mom has to drink animal blood to survive. Home is where the heart is, even if your sister lives in another city–and is a shape-changing monster. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, so how can you know who you’re supposed to be if your parents are a human and a vampire? – Goodreads

Following the previous anthology Wayward Sisters, this next Toronto Comics anthology is Wayward Kindred which expands to all kinds of creative stories stemming from kins. Much like its other anthologies, this one has probably the greatest diversity and variety in its stories bringing in different types of monsters and creatures, which without further research, stems from different country’s lores and such (mostly from memory from other things I have read or heard about). There are different art styles and different forms of execution for its stories.

Consisting of 17 stories in this graphic novel anthology with a diverse group of writers and illustrationists, there’s a lot to love and probably the anthology so far that has a lot of stories that stand out in comparison to previous anthologies released. With that said, while I won’t be reviewing all the stories in the anthology, here’s a quick rundown of the ones that stood out to me and a little capsule review in no particular order.

Long-Distance Sisters: This story circles around an older sister that only finds the courage to tell her younger sister about her differences. The younger sister promises to be there for here and in the end, as the older sister has to go away and their communication becomes less, the siblings love is still there. This one shines absolutely from the poignant story that it tells between these two sisters and just through simple words and illustrations, the connection between the two exceeds their differences or distance.

The Egret Widow: Beautiful illustrations pair this story where an aunt recounts the story of her past to her niece while taking her Egret form to fight the serpents to protect the land. Whether its the illustration or the story itself, there’s a lot to love about it. Almost reminds me of the Fantasy Chinese Dramas where it involves people taking forms of other beings as their spirit.

The God of Roadside Memorials: A lovely art style shows off this story about mourning the death of a loved one from a roadside accident as the god takes them away. This story has no dialogue and just its illustrations that tell the story from one panel to the next.

Grain Mother: While I’m not exactly sure what the story is for this one, it rides a parallel between a story shown at the bottom of the page in a blue strip of comic panels and the more dark camp setting on the top. It looks like some kind of lost children or something but while I can’t quite piece the two together as the blue portion doesn’t really have any dialogue, the kids and the interaction at the top definitely shows something a little more and was pretty enjoyable to read overall. Plus, I think the whole parallel story is pretty unique.

Black, White, And Walks With The Night: As a vampire halfling approaches her sixteen year old birthday, her family holds a party that invites her prep school friends, her home friends and her vampire family. As she fears putting the two separate parts of life together and how they wouldn’t get along, she also needs to think about whether she has the vampire element in her that should awaken on her sixteenth birthday but she soon realizes that both parts make up her as a person and a vampire. The art style here is really nice and the colors are very vibrant. Plus, the story takes a fun and positive angle.

That’s something like the Top 5 of this anthology for Wayward Kindred. To be fair, I swapped stuff around quite a bit to get that list since every story has its own merit and most of them were pretty fun and unique. Some had some oddity to it but the whole execution with how the comic is shown is pretty unique like From The Ground Up. Demons from the New Dimension and Cursed Uncle Teoscar is more comedic and light-hearted overall. Then there’s a cute friendship from Words between a creature and a little kid. Last one to mention which almost is like a different type of belief in creatures and spirits (maybe?) is Common Grounds and Various Teas which was pretty cool also.

The point is that there’s a lot to discover with this anthology. While most anthologies will have better and worse stories, this one overall was ranging from good to awesome, nothing that really felt off or didn’t seem to work or anything, which is always great.

Other graphic novels reviewed from Toronto Comics:

Yonge At Heart (Toronto Comics #4)
Osgoode as Gold (Toronto Comics #5)

TV Binge: Love Death & Robots (Volume 2, 2021)

Love Death & Robots (Volume 2, 2021)

Creator: Tim Miller

A collection of animated short stories that span various genres including science fiction, fantasy, horror and comedy. – IMDB

The first season of Love Death and Robots (podcast discussion) was an absolute treat with its 18 episodes or so and having a variety of different short films that explores the three themes: Love, Death and Robots. Thinking back to it now, there are still many segments that are memorable. In comparison, the second season is much shorter running at a swift 8 episodes with some stories feeling more familiar however, the animation style has shifted to some refined visuals that for some almost look real and also, some unique animation art style. The stories itself also has overlapping themes in some in some interesting settings.

Anthology volumes are always going to have hit and miss. The good news is that the second volume of Love Death & Robots is overall pretty good with some segments landing better than others but nothing that is lackluster. Looking at more specific segments, the art style and story of a few do stand out like the horror creature feature of The Tall Grass which had painting-like illustrations or Ice with its world building and comic book/graphic novel illustration style that brings in creative designs and a outer space setting with normal humans being in a world of modded humans. There’s also a Christmas short All Through The House which has its characters almost like dolls while playing with who Santa is and leaving it with a rather troubling question.

In terms of overall stories that seem to be a great basis for a bigger scale movie to some kind of full-length feature, some of these definitely have the basis and foundation for it. Coincidentally, these also have some good voice cast behind it and some more renowned names. The first, of course is for Pop Squad which sets up a future where humans have traded the rights to have children for living forever and being young forever also where having children is now a crime and when found, said children will be killed in order to maintain the population balance. Its a well-structured story with a lot more to explore especially when its voice cast includes Nolan North and Elodie Young. Much like Snow in the Desert which also has a barren wasteland setting and manages to blend all three themes of this volume together.

Two other ones well worth mentioning is the starting episode and the final one which both contrast from the rest of the series in tone. The first called Automated Customer Service carries in a different setting of a futuristic senior residence where a cleaning robot goes rogue and packed with a comedic element mocking the future of automated customer service. Its one that sets an upbeat yet sinister tone but is rather entertaining overall and pretty fun. The final episode, The Drowned Giant is a slow-paced one that leaves room for reflection on humanity in general as it circles around the discovery and gradual deterioration of a drowned giant washed ashore with a monologue from the scientist that observes it over time. Its one that might not fit the general one of the entire volume but does end with a more meaningful and thought-provoking point.

Overall, the second volume/season of Love Death and Robots is a pretty good one. Most of them are well worth a watch and each have their own value whether from visuals and art style to storytelling and world building. It is a short season but one that is still bingeworthy.

Blog Tour: Nothing Good Happens After Midnight (Review/Giveaway)

Nothing Good Happens After Midnight

Publication Date: November 17th, 2020
Genre: Thriller/Suspense/Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Anthology
Publisher: Suspense Magazine

The sun sets. The moon takes its place, illuminating the most evil corners of the planet. What twisted fear dwells in that blackness? What legends attach to those of sound mind and make them go crazy in the bright light of day? Only Suspense Magazine knows…

Teaming up with New York Times bestselling author Jeffery Deaver, Suspense Magazine offers up a nail-biting anthology titled: “Nothing Good Happens After Midnight.” This thrilling collection consists of thirteen original short stories representing the genres of suspense/thriller, mystery, sci-fi/fantasy, and more.

Readers’ favorites come together to explore the mystery of midnight. The ‘best of the best’ presenting these memorable tales include: Joseph Badal, Linwood Barclay, Rhys Bowen, Heather Graham, Alan Jacobson, Paul Kemprecos, Shannon Kirk, Jon Land, John Lescroart, D. P. Lyle, Kevin O’Brien, and Hank Phillippi Ryan.

Take their hands…walk into their worlds…but be prepared to leave the light on when you’re through. After all, this incredible gathering of authors, who will delight fans of all genres, not only utilized their

award-winning imaginations to answer that age-old question of why “Nothing Good Happens After Midnight”—they also made sure to pen stories that will leave you…speechless.

“NOTHING GOOD HAPPENS AFTER MIDNIGHT is a treat—dark, chilling, and delicious. Grab it.” —Meg Gardiner, Edgar Award-Winning Author of The Dark Corners of the Night

“Something very good happens after midnight…just pick up this brilliant book and be transported—and very afraid!” —Peter James, UK #1 Bestselling Author of the Detective Superintendent Roy Grace Series

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REVIEW

Anthologies are a great way for authors to share some short stories and to show off their writing style. With any anthologies, its always a bit of a mixed bag. Nothing Good Happens After Midnight is also somewhat of a mixed bag however as a lot of the writers are much more experienced, they all showcase an array of suspenseful stories that have rather good premises. The stories offer a different set of characters that range in age and the context which gives it a different setting and spin showing off each of the author’s different approach to their writing and story ideas. Across 13 stories from 13 different authors, there is quite a lot of creative ideas. Overall, its a rather enjoyable read.

As with any anthology, there are its own standouts. This will be probably different for each reader. For myself, the standouts are the stories that are more memorable than the others whether on story structure/execution preference or decent angle or the characters itself as well as the ideas all coming together along with a good setting. The first that comes to mind is Easy Peasey by John Lescroart which structures its story in an engaging way about a home invasion plot and jumps from one point of view to the next via its different characters and their different intentions. Night Shift by Linwood Barclay is a type of story that plays on a call that turns into a “negotiation” sort of deal as the characters work with police to try to talk a man out of their killing spree plans all culminating to a fantastic ending (the type of ending that I particularly enjoy).

Midnight in the Garden of Death by Heather Graham, A Creative Defense by Jeffery Deaver and All Aboard by Hank Phillippi Ryan also craft some brilliant stories. The first one crafts a story in a great setting, the second takes a fantastic musical angle of a musical piece that has the power of hynopsis and the third is set on a train as someone overhears a phone conversation. The final story of the anthology called ATM by Jon Land is also a decent one mostly for its unique angle of taking it on a suspenseful route but having a different approach.

A rather successful compilation of short stories in this anthology. While I listed six of the thirteen stories as more memorable. The others not mentioned are also fairly decent. Perhaps the only one that didn’t appeal to myself as much was the first short story since it felt a little familiar. Overall, a fun little suspense anthology. For a fan of suspense stories, this one fulfills.

Score: 4 out of 5

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

JEFFERY DEAVER is an international number-one bestselling author. His novels have appeared on bestseller lists around the world. His books are sold in 150 countries and translated into twenty-five languages. He has served two terms as president of Mystery Writers of America.

The author of forty-three novels, three collections of short stories and a nonfiction law book, and a lyricist of a country-western album, he’s received or been shortlisted for dozens of awards. His THE BODIES LEFT BEHIND was named Novel of the Year by the International Thriller Writers association, and his Lincoln Rhyme thriller THE BROKEN WINDOW and a stand-alone, EDGE, were also nominated for that prize. THE GARDEN OF BEASTS won the Steel Dagger from the Crime Writers Association in England. He’s been nominated for eight Edgar Awards.

Deaver has been honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Bouchercon World Mystery Convention, the Strand Magazine’s Lifetime Achievement Award and the Raymond Chandler Lifetime Achievement Award in Italy.

His book A MAIDEN’S GRAVE was made into an HBO movie starring James Garner and Marlee Matlin, and his novel THE BONE COLLECTOR was a feature release from Universal Pictures, starring Denzel Washington and Angelina Jolie. Lifetime aired an adaptation of his THE DEVIL’S TEARDROP. NBC television is airing the popular prime time series, Lincoln Rhyme: Hunt for the Bone Collector.

His latest novel is THE GOODBYE MAN, a Colter Shaw thriller.

Website

Author Bios

JOSEPH BADAL grew up in a family where storytelling had been passed down from generation to generation.

Prior to a long business career, Joe served for six years as a commissioned officer in the U.S. Army in critical, highly classified positions in the U.S. and overseas, including tours of duty in Greece and Vietnam, and earned numerous military decorations.

Joe is an Amazon #1 bestselling author, with 16 published suspense novels. He has been recognized as “One of The 50 Best Writers You Should Be Reading.” His books have received two Tony Hillerman Awards for Best Fiction Book of the Year, been top prize winners on multiple occasions in the New Mexico/Arizona Book Awards competition, received gold medals from the Military Writers Society of America, the Eric Hoffer Award, and Finalist honors in the International Book Awards.

He writes a regular column titled “Inspired by Actual Events” in Suspense Magazine.

To learn more, visit his website at http://www.JosephBadalBooks.com.

LINWOOD BARCLAY, a New York Times bestselling author and with nearly twenty novels to his credit, spent three decades in newspapers before turning full time to writing thrillers. His books have been translated into more than two dozen language, sold millions of copies, and he counts Stephen King among his fans. Many of his books have been optioned for film and TV, a series has been made in France, and he wrote the screenplay for the film based on his novel NEVER SAW IT COMING. Born in the US, his parents moved to Canada just as he was turning four, and he’s lived there ever since. He lives near Toronto with his wife, Neetha. They have two grown children.

RHYS BOWEN is the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and USA Today bestselling author of two historical mystery series, as well as three internationally bestselling standalone novels. Her books have won multiple awards and been translated into over twenty languages. A transplanted Brit, Rhys now divides her time between California and Arizona, where she escapes from those harsh California winters.

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author, HEATHER GRAHAM, majored in theater arts at the University of South Florida. After a stint of several years in dinner theater, back-up vocals, and bartending, she stayed home after the birth of her third child and began to write. Her first book was with Dell, and since then, she has written over two hundred novels and novellas including category, suspense, historical romance, vampire fiction, time travel, occult, and Christmas family fare.

She is pleased to have been published in approximately twenty-five languages. She has written over 200 novels and has 60 million books in print. She has been honored with awards from booksellers and writers’ organizations for excellence in her work, and she is also proud to be a recipient of the Silver Bullet from Thriller Writers and was also awarded the prestigious Thriller Master in 2016. She is also a recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award from RWA. Heather has had books selected for the Doubleday Book Club and the Literary Guild, and has been quoted, interviewed, or featured in such publications as The Nation, Redbook, Mystery Book Club, People and USA Today and appeared on many newscasts including Today, Entertainment Tonight and local television.

Heather loves travel and anything that has to do with the water, and is a certified scuba diver. She also loves ballroom dancing. Each year she hosts the Vampire Ball and Dinner theater at the RT convention, raising money for the Pediatric Aids Society, and in 2006 she hosted the first Writers for New Orleans Workshop to benefit the stricken Gulf Region. She is also the founder of “The Slush Pile Players,” presenting something that’s “almost like entertainment” for various conferences and benefits. Married since high school graduation and the mother of five, her greatest love in life remains her family, but she also believes her career has been an incredible gift, and she is grateful every day to be doing something that she loves so very much for a living.

ALAN JACOBSON is the award-winning, USA Today bestselling author of fourteen thrillers, including the FBI profiler Karen Vail series and the OPSIG Team Black novels. His books have been translated internationally and several have been optioned by Hollywood. Jacobson’s debut novel, FALSE ACCUSATIONS, was adapted to film by acclaimed Czech screenwriter Jirí Hubac.

Jacobson has spent over twenty-five years working with the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Unit, the DEA, the US Marshals Service, SWAT, the NYPD, Scotland Yard, local law enforcement, and the US military. This research and the breadth of his contacts help bring depth and realism to his characters and stories.

For video interviews and a free personal safety eBook co-authored by Alan Jacobson and FBI Profiler Mark Safarik, please visit http://www.AlanJacobson.com. You can also connect with Jacobson on Facebook (Facebook.com/AlanJacobsonFans), Instagram (alan.jacobson), Twitter (@JacobsonAlan), and Goodreads (alan-jacobson).

PAUL KEMPRECOS is the author of eight novels in the Aristotle “Soc” Socarides private detective series, including COOL BLUE TOMB, winner of a Shamus award from the Private Eye Writers of America for Best Paperback, and SHARK BAIT, nominated for a Shamus in the same category. Grandmaster of Adventure writer Clive Cussler blurbed: “There can be no better mystery writer in America than Paul Kemprecos.” Paul became the first fiction co-author to work with Cussler when they created and wrote the New York Times bestselling NUMA Files series. After collaborating with Cussler on the first eight books in the NUMA Files, Paul wrote two adventure novels including THE MINOAN CIPHER, nominated for a Thriller award by the International Thriller Writers. Paul lives on Cape Cod with his wife Christi, a financial advisor.

To learn more about Paul Kemprecos, check out his website at http://www.paulkemprecos.com.

SHANNON KIRK is the international bestselling and award-winning author of METHOD 15/33, THE EXTRAORDINARY JOURNEY OF VIVIENNE MARSHALL, IN THE VINES, GRETCHEN, VIEBURY GROVE, and short stories in four anthologies: THE NIGHT OF THE FLOOD, NOTHING GOOD HAPPENS AFTER MIDNIGHT, and BORDER NOIR. Shannon is also a contributor to the International Thriller Writers’ Murderers’ Row. Growing up in New Hampshire, Shannon and her brothers were encouraged by their parents to pursue the arts, which instilled in her a love for writing at a young age. A graduate of Suffolk Law School in Massachusetts, Shannon is a practicing litigation attorney and former adjunct law professor, specializing in electronic-evidence law. When she isn’t writing or practicing law, Shannon spends time with her husband, son, and two cats. To learn more about her, visit http://www.shannonkirkbooks.com.

JON LAND is the USA Today bestselling author of more than 50 books, including the award-winning, critically acclaimed Caitlin Strong series, the most recent of which is STRONG FROM THE HEART. He has also penned six novels in the MURDER, SHE WROTE series and has recently taken over Margaret

Truman’s CAPITAL CRIMES series as well. He’s a 1979 graduate of Brown University, lives in Providence, Rhode Island, and can be reached at jonlandbooks.com or on Twitter @jondland.

JOHN LESCROART is the author of twenty-nine novels, nineteen of which have been New York Times bestsellers. Libraries Unlimited places him among “The 100 Most Popular Thriller and Suspense Authors.” With sales of over twelve million copies, his books have been translated into twenty-two languages in more than seventy-five countries, and his short stories appear in many anthologies.

John’s first book, SUNBURN, won the Joseph Henry Jackson Award for Best Novel by a California author. DEAD IRISH, THE 13TH JUROR, and THE KEEPER were nominees for the Shamus, Anthony, and Silver Falchion Best Mystery Novel, respectively; additionally THE 13TH JUROR is included in the International Thriller Writers publication “100 Must-Read Thrillers of All Time.” HARD EVIDENCE made “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to the Ultimate Reading List.” THE SUSPECT was the American Author’s Association 2007 Book of the Year. THE MOTIVE was an Audie Finalist of the Audio Publishers Association. THE MERCY RULE, NOTHING BUT THE TRUTH, THE SUSPECT, THE FALL, and THE RULE OF LAW have been major market Book Club selections. John’s books have been Main Selections of one or more of the Literary Guild, Mystery Guild, and Book of the Month Club.

P. LYLE is the Amazon #1 Bestselling; Macavity and Benjamin Franklin Award-winning; and Edgar(2), Agatha, Anthony, Shamus, Scribe, and USA Today Best Book(2) Award-nominated author of 22 books, both non-fiction and fiction, including the Samantha Cody, Dub Walker, Jake Longly and Cain/Harper thriller series and the Royal Pains media tie-in novels. His essay on Jules Verne’s THE MYSTERIOUS ISLAND appears in THRILLERS: 100 MUST READS, his short story “Even Steven” in ITW’s anthology THRILLER 3: LOVE IS MURDER, and his short story “Bottom Line” in FOR THE SAKE OF THE GAME. He served as editor for and contributed the short story “Splash” to SCWA’s anthology IT’S ALL IN THE STORY.

He hosts the Crime Fiction Writer’s Blog and the Criminal Mischief: The Art and Science of Crime Fiction podcast series. He has worked with many novelists and with the writers of popular television shows such as Law & Order, CSI: Miami, Diagnosis Murder, Monk, Judging Amy, Peacemakers, Cold Case, House, Medium, Women’s Murder Club, 1-800-Missing, The Glades, and Pretty Little Liars.

Learn more at http://www.dplylemd.com.

Before his thrillers landed him on the New York Times bestseller list, KEVIN O’BRIEN was a railroad inspector. The author of 21 internationally-published thrillers, he won the Spotted Owl Award for Best Pacific Northwest Mystery, and is a core member of Seattle 7 Writers. Press & Guide said: “If Alfred Hitchcock were alive today and writing novels, his name would be Kevin O’Brien.” Kevin’s latest nail-biter is THE BAD SISTER.

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN is on-air investigative reporter for Boston’s WHDH-TV, winning 37 EMMYs and dozens more journalism honors. A USA Today bestselling author of 12 thrillers, Ryan’s also an award-winner in her second profession—with five Agathas, three Anthonys, and the coveted Mary Higgins Clark Award. Critics call her “a master of suspense.” Her highly-acclaimed TRUST ME was an Agatha nominee and chosen for numerous prestigious “Best of 2018” lists. Hank’s book THE MURDER LIST is an Agatha, Anthony and Mary Higgins Clark Award nominee. Her newest standalone is THE FIRST TO LIE (Forge Books August 2020). The Publishers Weekly starred review calls it “Stellar.”

Publisher:

SUSPENSE MAGAZINE was founded in 2007 on the premise that every author in the genre needed a platform to have a voice. From that original concept, Suspense Publishing was born in 2010 to publish high quality books in the suspense/mystery/horror/thriller genre. Suspense Publishing’s goal is to be a leader in producing the highest quality books in the genre.

Website

GIVEAWAY: Print copy of book (International)
Enter HERE

Blog Tour Schedule

November 16th

Reads & Reels (Spotlight)
I Love Books & Stuff (Spotlight)
Cocktails & Fairy Tales (Review)
Sadie’s Spotlight (Review)

November 17th

Jessica Belmont (Review)
Meli’s Book Reviews (Review)
@the.b00kreadser (Review)
Tranquil Dreams (Review)

November 18th

Horror Tree (Guest Post)
Breakeven Books (Spotlight)
Tsarina Press (Spotlight)
What Emma Did Next (Review)

November 19th

Rambling Mads (Spotlight)
Bonnie Reads & Writes (Review)
Book Review Crew (Review)
Stine Writing (Review)

November 20th

@BrendaJeanCombs (Spotlight)
@52weekswithbooks (Review)
The Faerie Review (Review)
@thecrookedhouse (Review)

Blog Tour Organized by:

R&R Book Tours

Double Feature: Trick ‘r Treat (2007) & XX (2017)

Next up in the Halloween movie marathon as we get to the final third of the marathon is a horror anthology double feature with 2007’s Trick ‘r Treat which has been highly recommended to me years ago and 2017’s XX, which is directed by 4 female directors. Let’s check it out!

Trick ‘r Treat (2007)

Director (and writer): Michael Dougherty

Cast: Dylan Baker, Anna Paquin, Brian Cox, Tahmoh Penikett, Rochelle Aytes, Lauren Lee Smith

Five interwoven stories that occur on Halloween: An everyday high school principal has a secret life as a serial killer; a college virgin might have just met the guy for her; a group of teenagers pull a mean prank; a woman who loathes the night has to contend with her holiday-obsessed husband; and a mean old man meets his match with a demonic, supernatural trick-or-treater. – IMDB

Trick ‘R Treat is quite a fun little horror anthology. It sets itself in one neighbor and the surrounding areas as it looks at characters that have their own little story and then cross each other’s path in the story and being interconnected in their own ways. The stories don’t flow in chronological order but it doesn’t need to because each of their own horror style whether its supernatural or a creature feature twist or creepy children, etc. In one way or another, there is something about each of these stories that bring a different twist to something that might have been seen plus it grasps the atmosphere of the situation fairly well.

The five stories here definitely bring in some familiar faces. Anna Paquin’s segment in Surprise Party is the one that I definitely liked the most because of the story being a rather nice twist and a subgenre that I love seeing. At the same time, he’s in this Little Red Riding Hood costume that takes a turn for a nice power change in the characters involved. Although the School Bus Massacre did have some great cinematography and atmosphere as its set in a quarry and a Halloween prank gone wrong. Of course, the design of Sam, the little burlap sack covered pumpkin head has a great reveal in one of the stories and appears in all the stories (if I remember correctly) and has a fantastic design (although reminding me a little of The Orphanage).

Trick ‘r Treat is a well-executed horror anthology. A lot of the stories are quick to the point but also has a little twist or tension to them and blends well together with the characters being interconnected, making it both fun and cleverly scripted.

XX ( 2017)

Directors (and writers): Roxanne Benjamin, Sofia Carillo, Karyn Kusama, Jovanka Vuckovic, Annie Clark

Cast: Natalie Brown, Jonathan Watton, Peter DaCunha, Melanie Lynskey, Sheila Vand, Casey Adams, Breeda Wool, Angela Trimbur, Christina Kirk, Kyle Allen, Mike Doyle

Four short horror films that are directed and written by women. – IMDB

XX highlights four directors (actually five if you include the title segment as a story) in a venture through their different stories. XX is a little bit more unusual as the title segment that cuts between each story actually doesn’t relate to the different short films presented but acts more like a bridge but still has its own story that unfolds by the end with this nifty little stop motion animated film with a dollhouse moving around finding bits and pieces here and there and feels incredibly random until it reaches the conclusion where everything makes much more sense and goes into place.

Looking at the 4 stories, its a good mesh as it moves through different subgenres of horror from a dark suspenseful and more psychological horror to horror comedy to creature feature and ending with an evil spawn sort of concept. Rounding up these female directors who all their won accord has done some good movies before brings out a new eye where its easy to see their differences in style and their voice in horror. Jovanka Vuckovic brings a great adaptation of a story by Jack Ketchum that has some fantastic visuals of the dark and psychological atmosphere while Roxanne Benjamin brings a fun creature feature of a friend turned into creature by a mysterious encounter in the isolated desert camping trip and Annie Clark (known on IMDB as St. Vincent) in her debut directorial film brings a neat dark comedy about a birthday party gone wrong. All very unique visions both in their storytelling abilities and cinematography choices.

XX is a pretty neat horror anthology and definitely highlights these female directors for what they can offer, much emphasized if you look at their filmography before and/or after this and one well worth checking out.

Fantasia Festival 2020: The Mortuary Collection (2019)

The Mortuary Collection (2019)

The Mortuary Collection

Director (and writer): Ryan Spindell

Cast: Clancy Brown, Caitlin Custer, Christine Kilmer, Jacob Elordi, Ema Horvath, Jennifer Irwin, Jame Bachman, Barak Hardley, Sarah Hay, Ben Hethcoat, Mike C. Nelson

On the cusp of retirement, an eccentric mortician recounts several of the strangest stories he’s encountered in his long career, but things take a turn for the phantasmagorical when he learns that the final story – is his own. – IMDB

While horror anthology are far and few, they always luckily tend to pop up at Fantasia Film Festival. The Mortuary Collection is the latest offering and its one that the poster caught my eye instantaneously. The art style and color palette of it reflects in the movie itself. The Mortuary Collections tells 4 tales with the 5th one being the one that strings them together at the Raven’s End Mortuary over the span of decades starting from the 1950s all the way to the 1980s. All of them are fairly diverse but uses the different situation of people. As with many anthologies, some stories probably land a little more than others however in my opinion, they were all fairly entertaining in their own way with each other having a little bit of dark humor and increasingly creepy to watch all building up to the last tale set in the present.

The Mortuary Collection

The Mortuary Collection uses the conversation between mortician Montgomery Dark (Clancy Brown) and a potential hired help Sam (Caitlin Custer) as the basis as he shows her around the mortuary while fulfilling her desire to tell her stories of the dead that has passed through Raven’s End Mortuary. After each one, she will criticize them for their predictability or lack of extremity. The first tale told, set in the 50s, is rather short and gives a good taste of the style. In reality, its definitely a catchy dose whether its the color scheme or the single actress in one setting of poking their nose where they shouldn’t as she finds a creature in the medicine cabinet. I’m a big fan of creature features here so the small dose of this was exactly what made it a fun start. Of course, the 60s takes on a different term with a male lead that I recently saw in The Kissing Booth 2, Jacob Elordi plays a college boy trying to build up his count of girls he sleeps with and it all comes down to a rather scary end and warning about safe sex. Its probably not my personal favorite but the ending was slightly disturbing yet a tad creepy. If anything, this was the lesser one although it had a nice premise and had us wondering what creature this girl is that leaves a little space for the imagination to go off. The 70s one is probably the creepiest as a husband contemplates killing off his sickly wife to get out of this dead end situation. Things go horribly wrong as it usually does and it also gets incredibly creepy although to be fair, another anthology (maybe Creepshow on Netflix) might have had a similar sort of segment with a different backstory. The 80s one is titled The Babysitter Murders, told by Sam as she tells a story close to her heart. It might seem like one of the more predictable tale among all of these but in reality, it takes a rather unique twist of events.

Aside from the stories, Montgomery Brown and Sam’s conversation about stories, their greatness and lacking elements while also the lessons that it discusses all brings a lot of fun. The dynamic between the two characters works really well. Clancy Brown does a great portrayal of Montgomery Brown and Caitlin Custer is a rather engaging Sam which gives both of them some subtle depth. At the same time, Raven’s End Mortuary also seems to come alive as they go through the different rooms. There’s is fantasy-like entity to the space that almost feels like something more is just lurking around the corner.

The Mortuary Collection is a really fun anthology. Sure, not all the stories are perfect but they all have this great entertainment value that gives a nod back to series like Creepshow or Tales of the Crypt. They have their own keeper of tales and it even has this fantastic color palette that makes some colors pop in their gloomy environment. The setting and the stories spread across the decades all have their own genre and leaves a little space for mystery plus the stories all connect as supporting characters will overlap between each tale as well. Its such a well thought out anthology that brings a lot of entertainment and amps up the creepiness with each tale. Its one that I’d definitely want to watch again while also hoping that they make another of one of these to see what other stories they have to tell.

And Then We Vanish: Collected Stories by D.H. Schleicher

And Then We Vanish: Collected Stories
By: D.H. Schleicher

and then we vanish

Eleven twisting tales curated from nearly a decade of work, And Then We Vanish features five new stories and six previously published stories from acclaimed independent author D. H. Schleicher.

In these stories we encounter characters who are victims of their own poor decisions…These characters might be longing to disappear or left behind by those who already have, and their stories challenge us to connect with them while they navigate the waves of mystery, violence, and the absurd that filter into their everyday lives. – Goodreads

*Book received in exchange for honest review*

And Then We Vanish is a collection of stories which is exactly as its title implies, about people who vanish in one way or another. The stories all have their own backdrop and range in different sort of characters. Its quite the box of chocolates to open and discover. Each of the characters in this story are more than they seem and as their characters reveal, most of them are rather displeasing personalities.

One of the elements that stand out in all the stories of And Then We Vanish are its characters. Each of them in their own backgrounds and their own settings and backdrop. In some cases, these characters take a rather extreme path and the story will leave it with some room to contemplate on the overall situation of the story. Knowing when to end a story shows how clever this author is. Doing it with short stories and having a certain pacing to make it all mostly work together that these characters reveal enough to be relevant and criticize their course of action but still think further about it. The best part is that these characters are all living in the everyday lives of the society whether its a parent, child or colleague, etc.

Some of these stories shine because of the setting. The specific one that comes to mind, especially as a Canadian and having vacationed there a few times in my life, is the incredibly creative take on Niagara Falls (which personally is the story that I liked the most) called When Night Falls on Niagara. There’s some other stories like: A Ballerina in Battery Park, Upon the Unfortunate News of My Death, The Pumpkin Thief , Somebody You Used to Know and Anthrax and Cherry Blossoms are some of the my other favorites from this collected stories.

D.H. Schleicher crafts each of these stories in a vivid writing style. The characters all come to life and it all has some kind of lingering effect for the characters that leaves room for reflection. The clever combination of the everyday characters and their settings gives them each a nice twist. You can tell from the titles above that there is always a twist of effects. Much like other anthologies and collected stories, some stories do land better than others and have the clever angle that makes it memorable however, they all deliver fairly well overall.

Score: 4/5

Blog Tour: Forgotten Magic (Magic Underground Anthology #3) [Excerpt/Giveaway]

Welcome to the blog tour for the final installment from the Magic Underground trilogy, Forgotten Magic! Read on for an exclusive excerpt and a chance to win a paperback copy of the book!

Forgotten Magic (Magic Underground #3)

Forgotten Magic

Publication Date: May 2020
Genre: Anthology/Fantasy/Magic
Publisher: Magical Mayhem Press

SYNOPSIS

For the last time, these heroes, witches, wizards, vikings and more will put it all on the line. No quest is too dangerous. No monster be it a dragon or something cuddlier with teeth is off-limits in the epic conclusion to the Magic Underground Trilogy. Stay tuned for details.

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EXCERPT

Excerpt: The Ones Who Choose by C. S. Johnson

Before I’d left to return home, Ai started talking to me about the Bloodmagic.

After I’d rescued him from the tower, I had taken him down to the caves. I’d settled him in one as best as I could, and then faced the cave entrance, keeping a lookout for Aiden. I was more concerned for Aidan at first; I didn’t know if he was coming or not. There was a good chance that when Ai was taken, the Community Elders would find a way to keep everyone in the tower until they had answers. As much as we were both in this together, I didn’t know what to expect now that we’d accomplished something this big.

But as Ai kept talking to me, and considering his talk of condemnation, I began to ask Ai questions. It didn’t take us long to talk about Bloodmagic.

“Bloodmagic is their word for the sacrifice,” Ai said.

“What?” My head snapped to look at him, as if to make sure he wasn’t trying to fool me. Instantly, I regretted my action, seeing his mangled body and the sad condition it was in. That was part of the reason I’d offered to stand watch in the caves, keeping my focus on the entrance. While I did not want the Community Elders to find us, and although I was watching for Aidan, I did not want to look at Ai too much. He made me feel uncomfortable.

Ai slumped beside me, looking out toward the cave entrance. The last of the sunlight was gone, and the temperature dropped. Ai did not seem to notice, even if he was nearly naked, with only a thin cloth around his loins.

“They call humanity’s curse ‘Bloodmagic,’” Ai said. “That is their name for it. I don’t think they like to think about it much.”

“If this is why you’ve been hurt, they probably don’t like to think of it,” I said. I glanced at him quickly, before reverting my eyes back to the cave entrance. “This is terrible.”

“It is,” Ai agreed. “But it is like I told you before. All of my suffering is your suffering.”

“That’s not right.”

He shook his head. “It doesn’t matter. I have been alive for nearly a century, thanks to the Bloodmagic, and this is just the way things are. That is why I would prefer that you return me to my tower room.”

“What?” I gasped at the remark. “No. Why would you want that?”

“The Community won’t survive long, Skyla,” Ai said. “Without the Bloodmagic Covenant, the full effects of suffering will return to your friends and family swiftly and mercilessly. They will suffer, and in their suffering, they will make others suffer more. They might even begin to enjoy hurting others if we don’t hurry.”

“But you will suffer if you return,” I said. “And I will make you suffer, too. I don’t want that. Can’t something else be done about the Bloodmagic?”

“There is nothing that can be done about human nature,” Ai said quietly. “We are prone to self-destruction, and we live in a world where pain and suffering are constants. All the countries and nations of the world have wrestled with this question, and in the end, all of the pain still exists. Many tried to fix the problem and only made it worse.

“So they decided to try something else. And it works.” He reached up and touched the shard on his forehead, the one what was darkening along with the sky. “If I am not returned, the suffering will only increase, and you will see people at their very worst. Every evil, selfish, and ignorant thought will manifest into danger and disaster. I’ve been able to hold off their degeneracy for a long time, and without me, they will exponentially become violent and careless.”

“Surely we still have some more time to stop them.” I put my hands together, trying to think of something else. “Maybe it is a matter of education. The adults here are smart. They’ll be able learn how to deal with the pains our Community has.”

Ai shook his head. “You don’t understand,” he said with a sad sigh. “But you will, once you see it. You must promise me you will not forget me when you do, or you could be at risk, too.”

From that moment, we lapsed into silence, and I was grateful.

I shivered as we sat there, but I didn’t think it was because of the chill in the air.

Purchase Link: Amazon

AUTHOR LIST

Melinda Kucsera
Joynell Schultz
Lee French
H.B. Lyne
Raven Oak
L.C. Ireland
Alesha Escobar
Tiffany Shand
C.S. Johnson
Anela Deen
Erik Kort
Devorah Fox
Stephen Wallace
Gwendolyn Woodschild
Leah W. Van Dinther
Barbara Letson
C.K. Rieke
William C. Cronk
Majanka Verstraete
Toasha Jiordano
H.M. Jones
Krista Ames
A.R. Johnston

GIVEAWAY

Print copy of the book
Enter Giveaway HERE

BLOG TOUR SCHEDULE

June 1st

Reads & Reels (Spotlight) http://readsandreels.com
Tranquil Dreams (Spotlight) https://klling.wordpress.com/
Lunarian Press (Review) https://www.lunarianpress.com/

June 2nd

C. Vonzale Lewis (Spotlight) https://cvonzalelewis.com/index.php/blog/
Crystal’s Book World (Spotlight) http://crystalsbookworld.wordpress.com
Jennifer Mitchel, Bibliolater (Spotlight) https://www.jennifermitchellbooks.com
The Magic of Wor(l)ds (Spotlight) http://themagicofworlds.wordpress.com

June 3rd

Dark Whimsical Art (Spotlight) https://www.darkwhimsicalart.com/blogs/news
Sophril Reads (Spotlight) http://sophrilreads.wordpress.com
Jessica Belmont (Review) https://jessicabelmont.wordpress.com/
The Faerie Review (Spotlight) http://www.thefaeriereview.com

June 4th

Breakeven Books (Spotlight) https://breakevenbooks.com
Carrie’s Book Reviews (Spotlight) https://carriesbookreviews.com/
Indies Reviews (Spotlight) http://indieproreview.blogspot.com/
Just 4 My Books (Spotlight) http://www.just4mybooks.wordpress.com
Misty’s Book Space (Spotlight) http://mistysbookspace.wordpress.com
The Cozy Pages (Spotlight) http://thecozypages.wordpress.com/
Books Teacup & Reviews (Spotlight) https://booksteacupnreviews.wordpress.com/

June 5th

Dash Fan Book Reviews (Spotlight) https://dashfan81.blogspot.com/
Banshee Irish Horror Blog (Spotlight) www.bansheeirishhorrorblog.com
Lecari’s Live Journal (Review) http://www.lecari.co.uk

Blog Tour Organized By:
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R&R Book Tours

Blog Tour: Double Barrel Horror #3 (Review)

Welcome to the blog tour for Double Barrel Horror Volume #3, a collection of thrills and chills by six amazing authors! Hold onto your pants folks!

Double Barrel Horror Vol. 3
By: Matthew Weber, Christine Morgan, Mark Matthews, Theresa Braun, Calvin Demmer, Glenn Rolfe, Robert Essig

double barrel horror vol. 3

Publication Date: March 22nd, 2020
Genre: Anthology/Horror/Suspense

Synopsis

Brace yourself for another two-barrel blast of unrelenting horror and suspense. Volume 3 of the ‘Double Barrel Horror’ anthology series delivers two chilling tales from each of six talented authors for a 12-story onslaught that will blow you out of your sneakers. This time around, your fate lies in the hands of Christine Morgan, Mark Matthews, Theresa Braun, Calvin Demmer, Glenn Rolfe, and Robert Essig

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Authors

Matthew Weber

Christine Morgan

Mark Matthews

Theresa Braun

Calvin Demmer

Glenn Rolfe

Robert Essig

Review

While I haven’t read any of the previous two volumes of Double Barrel Horror anthologies, Volume 3 is structured by its authors and their two stories each. For each of the author, it shows off their writing style and sometimes, even a little correlation in detail from one story to the next. Each of these stories are different in their premise and also have their own uniqueness and creativity. Its fairly imaginative and each one has their own twist. As with all kinds of anthologies, they usually have stories that will more and others that in contrast appeal a little less. Its rather nice to say that most of these stories all appeal rather well and it has to do with its variety and the different style that each author chooses while writing their horror stories.

Its never been my forte to review anthologies and I won’t go through each of these stories as there are twelve of them and its more important to highlight the authors and the stories and even the double feature story that hit the mark the best for my own preference. Christine Morgan starts off the anthology with Eye See You in a remarkable way. The descriptive and visual portrayal in Robert Essig’s From Unclean Spells is outstanding. At the same time, Mark Matthews, Theresa Braun, Calvin Demmer and Glenn Rolfe all present some fun double features. Among them, Glenn Rolfe definitely ends on a high with two awesome stories called The Guide and The House on Mayflower Street that definitely was a major highlight and two very strong entries. Different in their horror genre but both equally entertaining. Although, one of the more memorable reads did go to Theresa Braun’s Stillborn which had some chilling elements. Same goes for Mark Matthews two stories, Wicked Smart Carnie and Goodwin that also stood out a lot as well.

Overall, Double Barrel Horror Volume 3’s stories all have their flair but for myself, some definitely land better than others. Luckily, they definitely almost all land in one way or another with the minority that are a little less memorable. Plus, they also have the perk of introducing previously unknown authors (to myself).

Score: 4/5

Purchase Link: Amazon

Blog Tour Schedule

May 11th

Reads & Reels (Spotlight) http://readsandreels.com
Kim Knight (Spotlight) http://kimknightauthor.wordpress.com
Literary Dust (Review) https://literarydust.wordpress.com/

May 12th

Breakeven Books (Spotlight) https://breakevenbooks.com
The Scary Reviews (Review) https://thescaryreviews.com
Cats Luv Coffee (Spotlight) https://catsluvcoffeez.blogspot.com

May 13th

Entertainingly Nerdy (Spotlight) https://www.entertaininglynerdy.com
The Faerie Review (Spotlight) http://www.thefaeriereview.com
Book Dragons Not Worms (Spotlight) https://bookdragonsnotworms.blogspot.com/?m=1

May 14th

Dark Whimsical Art (Spotlight) https://www.darkwhimsicalart.com/blogs/news
Didi Oviatt (Review) https://didioviatt.wordpress.com
Books Teacup & Reviews (Spotlight) https://booksteacupnreviews.wordpress.com/

May 15th

I Smell Sheep (Spotlight) http://www.ismellsheep.com/
Jessica Belmont (Review) https://jessicabelmont.wordpress.com/
Banshee Irish Horror Blog (Review) www.bansheeirishhorrorblog.com
Tranquil Dreams (Review) https://klling.wordpress.com

Blog Tour Organized By:

R&R Button

R&R Book Tours

Double Feature: Christmas Evil (1980) & All The Creatures Were Stirring (2018)

DOUBLEFEATURE (82)

Welcome to the last holiday double feature for this year. Not double feature because that is staying, just before Christmas, no more holiday reviews. So we are ending with a nice change of pace to alternate Christmas horror found via Shudder: 1980’s Christmas Evil and 2018’s Christmas horror anthology All The Creatures Were Stirring.

Christmas Evil (1980)

Christmas Evil

Director (and writer): Lewis Jackson

Cast: Brandon Maggart, Jeffrey DeMunn, Dianne Hull, Andy Fenwick, Marc Neville, Joe Jamrog

A toy factory worker, mentally scarred as a child upon learning Santa Claus is not real, suffers a nervous breakdown after being belittled at work, and embarks on a Yuletide killing spree. – IMDB

Christmas Evil is really a Christmas film as its not only set in Christmas but a horror story of a mentally unstable man who was scarred so deeply as a child that Santa Claus isn’t real that he chooses to make himself into Santa and takes revenge on all those who did him wrong. Being 1980 film, there is definitely that 80s slasher vibe that goes with it which actually is quite endearing to watch. However, the film does suffer from some issues of being rather slow in the first half of anything happening other than setting up all the bad things that happen to Harry and then his desire to become Santa.

Deal is, there is still this unsettling feeling with Christmas Evil especially in the second half when Harry loses it completely and from the moment that he commits to turning into Santa and starts all the actual killing spree parts, it gets rather fun to watch in an 80s horror way and as much as I don’t find them particularly scary, it has the entertainment element. This is pretty much where Christmas Evil fits in.

All The Creatures Were Stirring (2018)

All The Creatures Were Stirring

Director (and writer): David Ian McKendry & Rebekah McKendry

Cast: Graham Skipper, Ashley Clements, Constance Wu, Jonathan Kite, Jocelin Donahue, Mark Kelly, Matt Long, Amanda Fuller, Catherine Parker, Morgan Peter Brown, Michelle DeFraites, Stephanie Drake, Peter Cilella, Makeda Declet, Megan Duffy, Brea Grant, Matt Mercer, Diva Zappa

When an awkward date on Christmas Eve leads a couple into a strange theater, they’re treated to a bizarre and frightening collection of Christmas stories, featuring a wide ensemble of characters doing their best to avoid the horrors of the holidays. From boring office parties and last-minute shopping, to vengeful stalkers and immortal demons, there’s plenty out there to fear this holiday season. – IMDB

All The Creatures Were Stirring is a horror anthology with five horror stories set during Christmas and revolves around the central story of two people going on their first date on Christmas Eve to see a play where these five stories are being acted out. As with more horror anthologies, its a hit and miss deal with a lot of the stories. There’s an obvious indie low budget thing going on here as well which for some does add to the charm. If anything, its a lot more about some of the interesting creative elements added into the scenes than the stories as a whole which at times were downright odd or hard to get into while there were two that did stand out.

Dash Away All and In A Twinkling are the two that definitely were highlights of the anthology. Dash Away All is set in a parking lot where a man locks his keys in his car and ends up asking two girls to borrow a phone and ends up having this really fun twist. In A Twinkling is about a bunch of friends going to visit for a surprise Christmas party and the night takes a turn for a worse when they enter into a black and white loop from outer space. These two were a tad funny and had a hint of creepiness.

The Stocking Were Hung was okay with an Secret Santa party at work which turns into a Jigsaw killer sort of thing. There are some clever bits here but it feels a tad familiar (especially with Saw having so many movies in that franchise already). All Through The House is a horror Christmas Carol sort of deal which is pretty much the same sort of stuff but they did have one thing that I remembered kind of gave me a little jumpscare. It just feels a tad weird in its pacing. The last one to talk about is Arose Such A Clatter which really was the least appealing BUT it had the whole “killer” point of view going on that kind of made it a little more unique in the way they executed it.

The central story which is generally called To All A Good Night is what links these pieces together. It does capture the awkward element well but then it seems to lack some substance to it as it does try to have a twist ending and ends up leaving it as an open-ended deal which is a good and bad thing, leaving the mystery but then makes it feel incomplete especially since this being the piece that connects the stories together means the story itself isn’t fleshed out in between the stories. Some good, some decent and some meh stories here making this one that I might not want to revisit considering it took me a few sittings to get through it this time already.

That’s it for this holiday double feature!
Have you seen these two films before? Thoughts?
Are Alternate Christmas films part of your holiday viewing?

After Hours – Love, Death + Robots (Season #1)

Season 2 officially wraps up with our final After Hours pick. This time, Elwood picks our first anthology series, Netflix Originals, Love Death + Robots. We try to touch on all the little stories here as well as talk about the ones that impressed us the most.

As Season 2 wraps up, you can already see that the banner on Movies and Tea has already changed with our next feature director, Sofia Coppola for Season 3. With that said, guests are always welcomed to join us if any of the movies interests you. Just drop me or Elwood an email or leave us a comment. Its almost completely unfamiliar territory for myself so it’ll be a fun dive into her filmography as we change not only film genre and our first female director highlight.

With that said, head over to Movies and Tea to check out our latest episode and share your thoughts on Love Death + Robots!

Movies and Tea

Wrapping up season #2 our final bonus episode has us looking at Love, Death + Robots for our first boxset binge.

A project from David Fincher and Tim Miller whose initial plans to
remake Heavy Metal were mophed instead into this anthology of short
animated tales with seemingly limitless scope for the stories which can
be told as we discover from this first season.

So get ready for alternative histories, monsters, shocking twists and of course love, death + robots!!

Music on this episode

Keith Mansfield – Funky Fanfare

Listen to the Show

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Itunes
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