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!