Door and Other Twisted Tales by Catherine McCarthy

You know that feeling when you get off the Waltzer at the fair? Your head feels kind of floaty, there’s an excited giddiness, that buzz of adrenaline rushes from toes to fingertips and then back again. You’d like another go but best not, because you’re 47 not 10. Or is that just me?

Anyway, going through the many Doors of Catherine McCarthy’s magical, mystical, and at times, oddly dark and creative mind, gave me quite that kind of ride! It wasn’t a roller coaster, Catherine’s writing is far too gentle and quietly satisfying for that, the Waltzer is my best comparison. You don’t need to scream if you want to go faster because you need that steady pace to be prepared for the “hang on a minute, I did not see THAT coming” moments. And then, there’s the “wait, what?!, no Catherine, nooo!! you can’t possibly end it there!!” moments!

Oh the perils of short stories that suck you right in!!! *sigh*

Door is a collection of dark portal style stories, although set in different times, they have a great deal in common with each other.

From a freaked out shift worker with paranoia about what’s behind a metal door, to unwelcome ‘white ghosts’ in Botany Bay, Australia 1790. From creepy crypts in the Canaries, to a wartime bunker in Sheffield, Catherine has created a treasure trove of mind-bending micro-journeys that whet the appetite with a side order of subtle horror and discomfort. You WILL want to read more from this author. Take it from me.

As with any short story collections, I had my favourites, but I can honestly say that I enjoyed every single one. I will say a few words about the ones that really stood out to me though.

‘Door’ – the first story, had me reading with such intensity. John, the MC, had successfully landed a job. Doing what, I’m not entirely sure, some kind of secretive knob and dial twiddling for a living, in a strange industrial building. Make of that what you will. As a character, he was weird. The story, even weirder! The ending? You must of heard me when I shouted ‘WHAT?? Don’t do that Catherine!!!’ from my bathtub from where I was reading!

‘Mine’, – the story of young Anna who works as a trapper down the mines. The sheer darkness of the setting and the mystery surrounding the ‘special kind of coal’ certainly pulled me in. It was so full of atmosphere, I could almost smell it.

‘Plague’ – a small village in Southern France, 1347 to the Gobi Desert in Mongolia 18 years prior and then back again to Penne, Southern France. Certainly worlds apart. You’d think.

“When you see a door open, which you did not expect, do not be afraid of passing through – just be careful as to whom else chooses to step beyond its threshold at your side”.

‘Ash’ – Raoul, a Scientist receives a letter from a Priest inviting him to help investigate the underground crypts and caverns in Volcanic Lanzarote. All is not well and some unearthed discoveries give this story quite a macabre and dark tone.

‘Charity’ – a Christmas story, of sorts, set in Hove, UK. “Satan Claws is coming to town!”

Is someone struggling with their spelling there? One things for sure, Karma’s a bitch, whatever the season. *Snorts satisfyingly*

If there’s one thing that all these stories have in common, other that the doorways to get into them, it’s the absolute cracking first few paragraphs of each and every one. Catherine has the knack of getting my attention so quickly. She sets the scene, introduces her character(s) and I’m swiftly swooped away.

Overall, an interesting, mixed collection of mindful, yet, at times, disturbing stories that were entertaining, a bit bizarre, and had Catherine’s unique stamp all over them.

I recommend Catherine’s writing whenever I get the opportunity as although predominantly a horror writer, her stories are made up of various layers which would appeal to readers who are seeking short stories beyond that one genre.

Thank you, Catherine for my gifted copy of Door, I am very grateful for the opportunity to read and review your collection.

Catherine McCarthy grew up in the industrial valleys of South Wales where she went on to teach for almost three decades. She now lives in West Wales with her husband, who is also her illustrator and motivator. Catherine believes that story telling is probably the oldest and wisest art form known to man, though to make it a bit compelling, it needs to be crafted with a bit of magic.

Twitter – @serialsemantic

Instagram – catherine_mccarthy_author

Amazon.co.uk : catherine mccarthy

Diabolica Americana: A Dark States Horror Compendium by Keith Anthony Baird

If you’re looking for tricks and treats galore this Halloween, then look no further. The second horror compendium following last year’s Diabolica Britannica from Keith Anthony Baird doesn’t disappoint.

Diabolica Americana is a charity horror anthology featuring 22 authors, including a very humble foreword by Eric LaRocca, author of ‘Things Have Gotten Worse Since We Last Spoke’.

I decided to read this collection of short stories in random order, based on titles that took my fancy when settling down for my October creepy reading time.

I’d heard of ten of the authors who I’d mostly seen sharing their love of the horror genre on Twitter. The other twelve new-to-me authors were promptly followed by yours truly as the talent levels throughout this anthology is staggeringly good.

To put together a bunch of writers whose diverse creativity and ability to suck you in to their worlds is no mean feat. Not a single tale felt out of place, this congregation delivered a mixture of scares, intrigue, oddities and outright horror in 22 tasty doses.

From River Witches to Serial Killers, Folk Magic, Vampires and Creepy Crawlies, there’s something for everyone’s terror taste.

It’s tricky to pick specific stories to recommend because each and every one has its own original voice. However, I will give a special mention to the following authors as their tales stood out for me, personally.

I made a beeline for Sadie Hartmann’s offering ‘Sunnies’. Sadie is Mother Horror on all her socials and is an important voice in the horror community. I’ve been following her since year dot for her excellent bookish recommendations and horror content and wasn’t disappointed. Sunnies was dark, disturbing and expertly written. The conclusion gave me a unexpected horror shock, just what the doctor ordered!

‘Hexmeister’ by Sara Tantlinger, was an eerie story of witches and dark folk magic that crept right into my bones. I’ll definitely be sniffing out more from Sara!

Another one that charmed my inner darkness was ‘The Iron Coffin’ by Laurel Hightower. Anyone for a stiff drink? You might want to grab a dram of Bourbon for this one!

I could praise every individual story in this glorious compendium, but my review would be so long, and I wouldn’t want to keep you from popping a pre-order on right away for your own copy of course.

I will add just one more to my mentions though, Richard Chizmar’s ‘Mischief’. Halloween isn’t Halloween without a serial killer is it? Well Chizmar had me hooked from the word go, talk about atmospheric, and what fantastically written characters! I best watch my back as an Aquarian…

So what are you waiting for? (Other than release day, obviously, which is October 28th!) Get your pre-orders in, lovers of thrills and spook. It’s available in both kindle and paperback format. I am very tempted to buy a physical copy for my horror shelf, I’ll just go and see if I’ve got space for it, spooky season is a killer for me because oh, the sweet, dark temptation…

Get your pre-order in right HERE folks!

Thank you to Keith Anthony Baird for sending me an advance e-copy, it was an absolute pleasure to read. And bloody well done to each and every author whose fine skills are showcased in this must-have collection.

YA MUM by Ben Tallon

YA MUM and other stories from the backstreets of Britain

A strange little yellow book full of strange scenarios that every single one of us can relate to in some way.

Ya Mum is short vignette style stories that give a sense of art and deeper thought to everyday occurrences that are always seen but often ignored. 

From dumped shopping trolleys to a lonesome shoe. Social distancing in Morrisons to an unpleasant discovery in a pub toilet. 

Armed with the perils of hangovers and dubiously stained mattresses, author Ben Tallon sees our world a little differently. He sees beyond the basics, he turns the arse-end of British life into something story-worthy. 

I see this book as a ‘loo book’ or stocking filler. A book that you find yourself reading out of morbid curiosity, nodding in agreement and surprise at just how relevant it is. 

It’s a strange little yellow book, and I recommend it for shits and giggles. It offers a perspective of this crappy world with its crappy people that’s nothing quite like yours.

About the author:

Ben Tallon is a writer, illustrator and host of Arrest All Mimics podcast. He grew up laughing at farts in Keighley, West Yorkshire and is fascinated by the dirty underbelly of British culture.

Thank you to author Ben Tallon for sending me a signed copy.

WWW Wednesdays! 7 Oct 2020 #wwwwednesdays

Welcome to WWW Wednesday!

Hosted by Sam @ Taking on a World of Words

Just answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments for others to look at. No blog? No problem! Just leave a comment with your responses. Please, take some time to visit the other participants and see what others are reading. So, let’s get to it!

The three W’s are:
📖 What are currently reading?
📖 What have you finished reading?
📖 What will you read next?

I’m currently reading and REALLY enjoying Hag : Forgotten Folktales Retold. It’s a compilation of traditional folk tales by some cracking women writers like Daisy Johnson, Kirsty Logan and Irenosen Okijie. It’s part of my spooky season October reads.

Staying with spooky reads, I finished reading Famished by Anna Vaught. A dark collection of short stories with food and feasting as the main theme. It’s on my best of 2020 shelf on Goodreads and has pride of place next to my (slowly growing) Shirley Jackson collection. You can read my 5 star review HERE.

Next in line, is creepy horror collection Diabolica Britannica: A Dark Isles Horror Compendium by a variety of horror authors including Sarah Budd, Morgan K Tanner and Tim Lebbon. It’s introduction is written by horror legend Ramsey Campbell and I can’t wait to get stuck in! All proceeds from the purchase of this ebook go to Covid-19 research here in the UK, so it was a no-brainer to buy this for Halloween!

So there we have it! As you can see, I’m very much into short story collections at the moment. I like how I can get the satisfaction of a whole story without committing too much time to each one.

💀 🎃 👻 🎃 💀 🎃 👻 🎃 💀 🎃 👻

Famished by Anna Vaught ~ A Recipe Blogpost Review

‘In this dark and toothsome collection, Anna Vaught enters a strange world of apocryphal feasts and disturbing banquets.’

INGREDIENTS

  • 25g of dried madness
  • 300ml of warmed passion, diced erratically
  • A generous cupful of foul thoughts (check the back of your pantry)
  • 400g of delicious words
  • 1 or 2 tsps of mixed emotions
  • 50g of old musty dictionary pages (‘W,T or F pages are probably most suitable)
  • For the glaze: A wash of quiet darkness

METHOD

Preparation is recommended on an empty stomach.

Mix the wet ingredients together in a bowl. Do this in a careful manner, creating a revolting soup-like consistency that can easily travel through ones veins.

Next, gently combine the dry ingredients together into an old urn or suchlike. There’s bound to be one lurking on the mantelpiece somewhere. Stir with a gnarled and boney finger until it resembles an odd, dusty, cement-like mixture.

Mix both wet and dry ingredients together and divide into 17 unequal portions. You are now ready to create your worst food nightmares.

‘…the tripe blinked at her and writhed in its nasty pool of white sauce…’

HOW DOES IT TASTE?

Comparable to a Cindy Lauper album, Famished has got to be the most magical, colourful, intelligent, bonkers, grotesque mix of stories I’ve ever had the (dis)pleasure to read. For reasons unknown, it just reminded me of how fascinated I am by Cindy Lauper in that you can’t help but find it entertaining, albeit very weirdly so.

Anna Vaught is a novelist, poet, essayist, reviewer and editor. She is also a secondary English teacher, and that shows spectacularly throughout the entire book. I spent a great deal of time looking up so many words in the dictionary, I felt like I was back in school. (Would I get an A* Ms Vaught, if you’re reading this?!)

Famished was a learning curve, a strange experience, a delight.

‘Will you gently suck, or will you shovel up with the liquorice, drunk on the acid-carbonate reaction with your own saliva?’

Famished was also heartfelt, relatable and revolting. Did it whet my appetite? It certainly did. But it didn’t make me hungry. Did it ruin my dinner? No! Funnily enough, it took me back to dinner times at home with my parents in the 80’s. Tinned mandarin segments with condensed milk for pudding was supposed to be a treat!

I must have quite a strong stomach because out of all the darn right disgusting things in this book, there was only one thing that really turned me over.

These four words – ‘…sea-foam milky tea…’ 🤢

I’ve only really started reading short story collections in the last couple of years, so I’ve got quite a list to get through. Many classics and a few contemporary, but I don’t think I’ll come across anything quite like Famished again.

Although…and I’m saying this with great relish; there’s hints of SHIRLEY JACKSON in Vaughts writing. YES, that’s what I said. I’ve compared a modern author to JACKSON, the QUEEN OF MACABRE.

Famished is staying on my forever shelf, and Ms Vaughts’ vulgar little tales are living beside Shirley Jackson. They can be like ‘two sisters, secreted in the deeper recesses of darkness…’

Famished is going on my Best of 2020 Goodreads shelf
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