October 28, 2018
reviewed by Brian James Lewis
Hello and welcome once again to The Skullcave, home of Damaged Skull Writer & Reviewer! Today we’ll be checking out another fine book from Steve Berman’s Lethe Press, Never Rest by Marshall Thornton. This Lambda Award Winner is labelled young adult fiction, but a novel like this transcends all boundaries. We’re talking about love, hope, life and death, universal themes for all humans. Not to mention coming out-definitely important stuff for teens and young adults, but also important for people who aren’t in same sex relationships to read about and understand that love is love.
The story kicks off with our reluctant protagonist, Jake, deciding that now is the time to kick the bucket. He has every right to feel this way. After dealing with what he calls “blah-blah-blah leukemia” for the last five years of his teenage-hood, Jake is worn the hell out. The disease is killing him slowly and painfully while modern medicine charges in with a chainsaw to help out. But it seems like the treatments only make things worse with all their side effects. Chemo’s purpose is to kill things and it sure does. Medications and radiation aren’t selective about what they destroy. Jake is stuck in bed watching TV and sleeping all day instead of chasing the man of his dreams. It’s no wonder that he’s in misery!
But just as Jake decides to agree with his medical team’s prognosis and ride the great Morphine train into the next world, his mother comes up with a plan. Jake doesn’t like the plan and tries to resist going to the snazzy new research facility she’s found, but he doesn’t have the strength. So off they go, to the middle of nowhere and a funky old place that sure doesn’t look like a research facility. Dr. Harry is eccentric and some of the staff seem unqualified for what they’re doing. This worries Jake, but he can’t deny that something is happening to his body.
Is it possible that he might actually recover from “blah-blah-blah leukemia?” Will he and the handsome boy in the next bed actually get to have sex, something Jake’s dreamed of for years? Why isn’t there any cellphone service at the Godwin Institute? The deeper we go into Never Rest, the harder it is to avoid spoilers, but I can tell you that the pace picks up a lot and all the mystery will keep you turning pages late into the night. You will likely become emotionally involved with the characters, especially when it becomes clear that Property Fivemight not be a miracle drug and that there are worse things than dying.
But it’s not all doom and gloom in every paragraph. You will find yourself laughing at times because Thornton’s portrayal of a gay teenager is so perfect. I mean how about this line:
“Dying of a terminal illness is like a trip to Detroit. You hear all these terrible things and you really don’t want to go, but when you get there, it’s not as bad as you thought it would be.”
I mean, with all apologies to Detroit, that’s a perfect way to describe things, especially from a younger person’s viewpoint. There’s also the rather entertaining episode when a new, straight patient named Edmond arrives and quizzes Jake and Goth about the availability of “pussy in this joint.” Poor Edmond reminds me a great deal of Donald Trump, which only makes his pathetic attempt a sexiness even more laughable. I mean he’s got crazy hair, big teeth, and shouts “Yo! You sexy!” as his cool pick-up line. This is good stuff.
Damaged Skull Reviewer gives Never Rest by Marshall Thornton a hearty 5 STAR rating! This is a great, complex novel that is so much more than just horror. The characters are really 3-D and you can practically feel the tall grass behind the institute against your legs. There is a LOT going on in 200 pages and I really encourage you to grab a copy of Never Rest from your favorite bookseller! Want to find out more about Lethe Press and all the cool titles they have available for your reading pleasure? Then head on over to www.lethepressbooks.com Thanks for taking the time to read this review at Damaged Skull Writer and Reviewer, I look forward to seeing you soon!
GRAVEYARD SMASH-Women of Horror Anthology Vol. 2
Edited by Jill Girardi
November 4, 2020
reviewed by Brian James Lewis
Happy 2021 everyone! I thought I would start the new year off right by reading some great horror fiction written by women. Kandisha Press never fails to provide a great selection in every one of their anthologies and Graveyard Smash is truly a 5 STAR reading experience by women of horror. We’re talking about Sonora Taylor, Lydia Prime, V. Castro, and Ally Peirse-who wrote the story from which this anthology gets its title. Sound cool? Then let’s dive in and check it out!
Sonora Taylor is one of my favorite authors, so I was looking forward to reading her contribution to Graveyard Smash. Amazingly enough, when I set the book on my lap, it fell open to the first page of The Clockmaker! How’s that for spooky? Nathaniel is the town clockmaker of Sanguay Bluff and he takes great pride in his work, which is beautiful as well as functional. So when an unusual gent comes into his shop seeking a pocket watch made of bone that needs to be ready in a short period of time, Nathaniel turns him down. Well until he sees the large amount of money the guy is offering. That and pride won’t let him pass on such a challenge. But pride is one of the seven deadly sins and the wages of sin are never easy money. The watches are horribly difficult to make and Nathaniel’s need for bone forces him to seek it in a rather unsavory place. But when the townspeople discover that a grave robber is in their midst, life becomes even more challenging for The Clockmaker.
In South Dakota, Lydia Prime delivers a tale of bone chilling horror. The setting seems so picturesque at first, that it’s hard to believe anything bad could happen there. A lovely village next to a stunningly beautiful lake appears idyllic, but the residents practice a weird burial custom that kind of takes the shine off the place a bit. Most of the residents in the village enjoy their simple way of life, but not Dakota. She’s a lonely child who longs for friendship instead of the taunting she gets from the other kids. One day, while exploring the frozen surface of the lake, Dakota makes a friend who is a mirror image of herself. How fun! The only problem is that her friend is trapped under the hard glassy surface of the lake. Together they hatch a plan to pull “OtherKota” through. But as the saying goes, no good deed goes unpunished. Will Dakota’s actions give her the friendship she so deeply desires, or will things go south in a big hurry?
Once you start reading Holes by R.A. Busby, you’ll realize its connection to our current world pandemic. COVID-19 is terrifying all by itself if you’re one of the people taking it seriously. But when that terror is combined with mental illness, things can quickly spin out of control. Most interior designers are pretty OCD people to begin with and you don’t have to be trapped in the Overlook Hotel to feel isolated now that self-quarantine is often required. There are also wildly conflicting accounts of how one could get sick with this virus that has been compared to the plague. Plus, there are just as many ideas about avoiding it So when Katherine loses her job, and pretty much sole purpose in life, at Clean Corners-an interior design company-She loses it. But before she does that, she supervises a bathroom remodel that shows her that a person’s home is often not as safe or substantial as we think. There are holes, too many holes. Holes that need to be filled and that means every single one.
Last, but certainly not least is Atmosphere contributed by Ally Peirse. Initially, a story about night shift cleaners in a brewery sounds like a lot of fun. Got any free samples? Har-har! But it turns out to be a frightening place to be the night Vicky pops in to do a newspaper story about it. Initially it doesn’t seem too bad, but as accidents befall her and a cleaner named Rob, they find themselves trapped. That’s when Rob tells Vicky the story of a mean supervisor and how the brewery had its best year with a beer called Graveyard Smash. There is more going on than you might think in small towns all over the world, so open your eyes and ears. Whatever you do, don’t forget to carry a hammer.
This is just a wee smidgin of what’s enclosed in this amazing women of horror anthology from Kandisha Press. Graveyard Smash is over 300 pages worth of 5 Star reading that you will get hours and hours of enjoyment from! All female writers and every story is fantastic! Highly recommended by Damaged Skull Reviewer and available NOW from your favorite booksellers! Don’t forget to also check out Volume 1 in this anthology series Under Her Black Wings! Great Stuff! Both have earned spots on The Damaged Skull Wall of Fame. Want more information? Then head on over to www.kandishapress.com Thanks for visiting the Skullcave. See you soon!
- on February 7, 2016
Nobody would be likely to steal my old Chevy truck, I guess.
Unless they were a fucking idiot. Which is quite possible around here.
Smashed, dented, broken, and leaking everywhere.
It is impossible to start, and even more difficult to keep running.
Unless you know the combination of moves required.
To make the ancient smoking motor roar and growl.
Sure as hell not something they teach you in school.
You learn it all the hard way, by doing it yourself.
People frown on that sort of thing today.
Claiming how unsafe old vehicles are…
“No daytime running lights? No anti-lock brakes?
No airbags? No low tire pressure light?
Call the police, the governor, the president!”
Not trusting what they don’t understand
Modern life is built on fear of everything
From bug bites to flat tires, old cars and grease fires
Then you have the ridiculous new cars and trucks…
With safety features galore, and cup holders
Up the wazoo, along with back up cameras, DVD
Players, speed sensors, and cars that park themselves
Hell, there’s probably a sensor that knows when you fart
So it can roll down the windows and crank the AC
But, it’s all just a flashy, computerized trap
You can talk to your Aunt Mabel in Ohio
Just speak clearly into your dashboard, and
You can hear all about the boils on Uncle Carl’s ass
While you laugh, and then crash… fatally
Into a huge gravel truck that didn’t even feel you
Mashing yourself and the family into
bloody pulp on his bumper, or better yet,
shaving the roof off your robotic, hypnotic,
super safety machine, along with your heads
While Aunt Mabel drones on about corn prices
Your car will call the police so that they can
Come scrape what’s left of you and your
Technologically advanced family
Off of route 49 because you got fooled
Meanwhile a drunk guy in an old truck
Backs into a telephone pole, maybe even
Knocks it down then laughs and
Drives away without a scratch.
UNKNOWING, I SINK
Timothy G. Huguenin
Independent Legions Publishing
October 20, 2020
Reviewed by Brian James Lewis
Hello to all from the Skullcave once again! I’m really pleased to share news of this cool new release from author Timothy G. Huguenin and Independent Legions Publishing. Unknowing, I Sink is an eighty-page novella that’ll unsettle you in the style of Ray Bradbury and The Twilght Zone. There’s no bloody slasher careening about or screaming victims blatantly showing you what’s wrong with the picture. Huguenin’s story quietly creeps while burrowing deep into your grey matter. Let’s take a peek behind that awesome cover!
Julian is the average fifteen year old boy starting his first summer job. Most of us know that feeling, right? Got some butterflies, a bit unsure of ourselves, but retail stores or food service jobs aren’t particularly terrifying. Replace that with a creepy old Victorian mansion that appears to be uninhabited. The owner is a vastly eccentric old man that doesn’t even answer the door. Instead the guy monitors everything electronically with security cameras and remote switches, barking commands from a hidden room.
Still, Julian has dreams of buying a car and impressing the high school hottie. Work, no matter how funky will get him money. Money will get him that first car. Julian doesn’t want a rusty old family sedan, either. This kid is looking at Ferraris! So he cleans the huge old house and accepts the “no cellphones” rule laid down by the old guy. He even whips up some lunch for his new boss. So far, so good.
It’s when Julian comes face to face with his employer that things hit Weirdsville. Mr. V lives in the mansion’s library and appears to be completely unable to move. He also has a huge, white, and very disproportionate body that creeps Julian right the hell out. But he keeps his composure and the job. The money is great and soon Julian thinks he’s got it made. Tell the strange old guy what he wants to hear and clean every room in the vast mansion, get car, wow girl, and prepare to roll down easy street.
Turns out that Mr. V doesn’t just want a kid to keep stuff up around the house. Mr. V wants to mentor Julian and help him achieve a higher state of learning, stretch his limits as it were. He even puts him on a reading program consisting of books from his library. The first? Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? By science fiction legend Phillip K. Dick. While that in itself isn’t a bad thing, Julian starts to feel uncomfortable. Why is Mr. V the way he is and why doesn’t he need a keyboard or mouse to control his powerful computer system? Who keeps a roaring fire going in a closed room during summer? Still, Julien minds his own business because he wants the reward at the end of tunnel.
The longer Julian works for Mr. V, the worse he feels. At first, he thinks it might be nerves or him thinking poorly about his employer’s odd condition. But Julian is in physical pain and nerves should have settled by now. There’s a throbbing ache, dark matter within, a fishhook tugging. It’s almost like Mr. V is with him at all times, even when he’s off duty or on a date. What’s going on? In fact, the much wished for girl isn’t at all like the fantasies Julian made up in his mind. Her arrival has an unpleasant domino effect on his life instead of curing his lusty dude blues. Mind melting, unable to focus, Julian must do his best to escape what has become a nightmare. He better hurry if he’s ever going to enjoy that money Mr. V paid him!
Damaged Skull Writer & Reviewer gives Timothy G. Huguenin’s Unknowing, I Sink a hearty 5 STAR RATING! Do not underestimate the power of this novella! A true case of small but mighty, this recent release from Independent Legions will blow your doors off. There are so many details in this great story, that I read it thrice! Very relatable with a relentless storyline, Unknowing, I Sink is a great book for readers from 15 to 115. Clean language with no loss of impact is a Huguenin trademark. Makes a great gift, too!
Looking for more information? Check out Timothy G. Huguenin at www.tghuguenin.com for news of his many other books and upcoming releases! He’s also on Twitter @tghuguenin. Independent Legions is an excellent publisher of horror fiction and dark poetry with a wide selection of titles available, including works by Alessandro Manzetti, whose poetry I will be reviewing soon! Check them out at: www.independentlegion.com Thanks for stopping by Damaged Skull Writer & Reviewer!
AC/DC ARE BACK IN THEIR CLASSIC LINE UP! BRIAN JOHNSON RETURNS TO HIS RIGHTFUL PLACE ON VOCALS AND STEVIE YOUNG FILLING IN FOR THE LATE MALCOLM, PROVING THAT ROCK N ROLL IS IN THEIR BLOOD
Lucy A. Snyder
October 5, 2020
Raw Dog Screaming Press
Reviewed by Brian James Lewis
Halloween is nearly here! And you can’t have a happy one without some great reads from Raw Dog Screaming Press. Couple that with one of the greatest horror writers of our time, and you’ve got a 5 Star celebration of a very special season! Hot off the presses, Lucy A. Snyder’s great new short story collection Halloween Season-not your kids’ Halloween is bad to the bone. As always, she’s mixed some humor and warmth in with the chills to make her characters easy to relate to. For a full spectrum experience, Snyder has even included a couple of adult stories to give us that mix of scary and sexy we crave. Ready to take peek inside? Let’s go!
We’re always reading or watching heart rending stories about far flung families reuniting. How wonderful! They never thought they’d get to see a long-lost daughter or brother again! Hooray! In The Family mines that territory with a few twists. The found person is a son from a previous marriage of the narrator’s sister. He arrives at his mother’s house only to find out that she’s not there. But his aunt is and it seems that she has a lot to tell him…Creepy with very believable details!
Hazelnuts and Yummy Mummies is cool story that starts with the accidental ingestion of the “wrong cookies” during a horror convention. We’re not talking hash brownies here, more like serious hallucinogen overload. The initial results are pretty damn funny. But soon Victoria is swept up into a spiritual journey that helps her understand things in her past that left some major scars. Kind of like all those Christmas movies and of course the very near Day of the Dead, anything can happen during the magical night that is Halloween. Enjoy the ride!
Remember all those tough guy detectives that guys like Humphrey Bogart played in old movies? Unflappable dudes who always saved the dame and took care of hard cases without batting an eye. It was rare for them to be referred to as The Kind Detective. But the detective in Lucy A. Snyder’s story is a good guy who cares about the people he’s trying to help during a city-wide crisis. Trees are disappearing out of people’s yards in a strange way. The impact upon the tree owners is severe, but The Kind Detective figures out a plan to end their troubles. Is there such a thing as being too helpful?
The House That Couldn’t Clean Itself is part love story and part science fiction. When Marsha’s girlfriend points out that she’s been taken advantage of in a sublease, she tries to downplay it. But you can only ignore a situation for so long. The big issue is a vast lack of cleanliness to the point of requiring robotic intervention. But, just like everything else in life, you get what you pay for. You know, kind of like fast food. So when Marsha’s housemates decide to repurpose a robot to save money, things don’t exactly go to plan. Make sure to read this one!
Halloween Season is a great collection that earned a hearty 5 STARS! What makes Snyder’s work so fun to read is that she’s a shapeshifting chameleon. Each story is different, so that we are constantly travelling over new ground. No flat spots in here! Also dig the poems tucked inside. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED! Want more information about the great writer Lucy A. Snyder? Then visit her at: www.lucysnyder.com or say hello to her on Twitter @LucyASnyder. Raw Dog Screaming Press publishes a diverse range of truly delightful books! Be sure to visit them at: www.RawDogScreaming.com
Hybrid Sequence Media
June 25, 2020
Reviewed by Brian James Lewis
Hello darkness my old friend…I mean, welcome back to the Skullcave, home of Damaged Skull Writer & Reviewer! Sorry, I’ve just been pounded by Austin James’ poetry collection Shrapnel which is definitely RAW. Let me put it this way, if you like poems about birds, flowers, sunshine, and crystal-clear mountain air-go get your kicks elsewhere! Ditto, if you require poems that always rhyme. But if you’ve been kicked around by life and had your neck stepped on more than once. Maybe drank and drugged in excess in hopes of evading your stupid, shitty life and all the pain that goes along with it, only to wake up naked in an ambulance? If so, SHRAPNEL was written for YOU!
Part painful autobiography written in angry scrawls by a rusty switchblade on public toilet walls and part calls for help mixed with proclamations of anger, lust, and loss-Austin James’ work leaps out of the pages and attacks readers’ eyeballs. Speaking of eyeballs, even the front cover of this volume is twisted! At first, you see a spiny nightmare creature, but then you realize it’s being attacked by another from the rear. Maybe they’re mating, as bad thoughts often do, until you’re reeling over the brink.
The first poem to whack our eyeballs with a stick is simply a date; 22, 409 and begins with, “Ten things I don’t want to talk about…” The images keep scrolling, until we realize that we’re reading about a dead person and how hard it is to let go even if we want to. There’s also a strong undercurrent of anger, both at the hospital staff and for everything that’s led to this. I lost my Mom very suddenly this year, so I feel this.
The poem “Yahtzee!” on page 36, answers some of the questions non-writers ask those of us who do. We might as well try to explain the universe. But James unapologetically offers this:
Don’t call me a poet
I just can’t cope with the depths
so I shit my guts onto the page
like a handful of dice
to see if anything adds up
Can’t beat that for honesty! And isn’t that kind of what we all do when writing rough drafts?
Something a bit more seasonally oriented is the poem “Cold Front” which dispels the whole warm and cozy “Hello Fall” ridiculitude. James’ isn’t a bit happy to see all traces of summer packed away in favor of colder weather. Hell, even: “All the songbirds are sipping mojitos on some beach in Mexico” How nice for them! Meanwhile we’re stuck inside shut windows watching flies die while stirring grainy, bargain brand hot cocoa mix into a cup of tepid water. Whooee! Try not to remember that gun hidden in your nightstand. Happy Fall, indeed!
So there’s a sampling of the ride you’ll be taking when you read Shrapnel-Raw Poetry by Austin James. I also dig the cool snippets of art included with the verse that really do contribute to the vibe. “The Tree of Dermatology” is a favorite. This collection is difficult to place a number rating on because it is so raw and there are times when you might not like what you’re reading. But as a valid, artistic expression of a person living in these modern times, I think it rates a solid 5 STARS for its intensity and microdetails hurled into a huge space, kind of like, well, Shrapnel.
Looking for more information? Check out Austin James’ profile on Amazon.com and say howdy to him on Twitter @AusJamesWriter. Hybrid Sequence Media is a cool independent publisher of horror and weird with lots more groovy stuff happening this year. You can reach them on Twitter @HybridSequence and click the link to their site. Tell them that Damaged Skull Writer sent ya! Until next time, I’ll recede back into the darkness. Happy Horror Reading!
Currently reading this fine collection! Will have review out soon on my site. So far, it’s five stars all the way
GRAVEYARD SMASH – WOMEN OF HORROR ANTHOLOGY VOL. 2
Kandisha Press is proud to announce that GRAVEYARD SMASH, the second volume of our WOMEN OF HORROR Anthology series, was officially released on July 20th 2020 and features an array of diverse voices from women around the world!
Available now at these retailers:
AMAZON PAPERBACK: amazon.com/dp/B08D4H2X64
AMAZON KINDLE: amazon.com/dp/B08D3QDHKR
BARNES & NOBLE: barnesandnoble.com/s/2940162813200
APPLE BOOKS: itunes.apple.com/us/book/id1523717444
A woman suffering from trypophobia, the fear of holes, descends into madness during a global pandemic.Due to overpopulation, the dead are forced to share their graves with strangers- and they’re not sure they like it.On a stormy night, the town’s watchmaker is visited by a mysterious man, who asks him to craft a timepiece from bone.A young girl has the ability to raise the dead, but she just can’t seem to get it right.No one believes Dakota’s story of seeing a…
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