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Reviewed by Paula Limbaugh Crystal Lake Publishing has this cool perk for its Patreon subscribers, for just $5 a month you can read and vote on their monthly Flash Fiction Challenge! Which by the way is open to all, that’s right you don’t have to be a subscriber to enter. You should, however, follow Crystal Lake Publishing on Facebook or Twitter to see when submissions open each month. With that out of the way, Joe Mynhardt has decided to create an anthology of all the top finalists to date. They may have not been the month’s winner, but they are still winning stories and deserve to be read by all. In Shallow Waters Vol.1 you will find tales of horror, thrillers, suspense, and so much more. Wicked twists and subtle nudges will have you wanting more. But, not to worry. Volume 2 is already in the making.  Since these stories are all short, I will not elaborate on any one of them, I will say though that I’ve read them all and had a hard time deciding when it came to voting. This is a great way to get to know some new authors or perhaps check out what else [...]
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Reviewed by Paula Limbaugh When reading anything by Jonathan Winn one must be ready to be blown away by his visually descriptive narrative. Be prepared to be taken outside of your comfort zone as you read of a child being slain yet it is written so beautifully that you are in awe rather than distressed. Words flow across the pages like poetry in motion. Reading like a historical account you will be swept away in an alternate reality. The Martuk Series Vol. 1 is a compilation of 5 stories that tie in together. For those of you familiar with Martuk…The Holy the characters will be familiar, if you haven’t read the aforementioned book, no worries this one stands alone quite well. The first story, The Wounded King, begins the saga of the Almost King. Here we are introduced to the darkness that prevails within the city of Uruk. The stage is set, and we learn of the order of Priests who work against the king. There is a heaviness that looms as we read of demons and gods, blood sacrifices to appease and hopefully gain favor. Evil abounds and there really isn’t any light to look forward to. The Elder [...]
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Reviewed by Paula Limbaugh Alessandro Manzetti is an author whose poetry I greatly admire. This review steps away from his poetry and enters the realms of extreme horror. Shanti: The Sadist Heaven is not a book for everyone. If your sensibilities are offended by graphic sex, acts of depravity, cannibalism, and other such extremes please stay away! Those of you that are familiar with the Marquis de Sade will know what to expect. Yeah, it’s extreme! The story takes place in a futuristic Paris where anarchy reigns and survival of the fittest is the only way to exist. Juliette and Justine are orphaned sisters who are sent to Sainte Marie College which is run by a transgender madame. Here the sisters are to be taught what it takes to get ahead in this apocalyptic world. One sister will thrive in this new no-holds-barred environment while the other clings to hope while enduring the basest of defilements. Amongst the ruins of what once was lies Shanti the Holy City, only a few are allowed to pass through its gates. This is an extremely intense story. One that could have gone in another direction that would have made it pure smut. But… [...]
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Reviewed by Paula Limbaugh If you like reading stories of the battle between good vs. evil along the lines of King’s, The Stand or Swan Song by McCammon you are going to love this! Keith Deininger is at the top of his game with Violent Hearts. A well-plotted story that keeps you turning the page, Violent Hearts takes us through the mundane of every day living into the surreality of nightmares come to life. Deininger is one of those authors that excels at world building. He intricately maps out the environs as the story unfolds and lets you visualize the surroundings with your own added touches that create a one of a kind experience. This is a story where worlds collide yet somehow mesh together as one and in the end, you will be left in awe of Deininger’s ability to tell a tale! For me to tell you what the story is really about would be a disservice to the book as I don’t really think I can just briefly recap what I’ve just read, instead, I’ll give you this. “It had started that cold night spent in the woods with Chloe, all those years ago. They’d wakened something, [...]
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Reviewed by Paula Limbaugh Richard Farren Barber has written plenty of short stories and novellas but never a full-length novel, this is a first and a brilliant one at that! The Living and the Lost is a uniquely different type of ghost story, a supernatural tale that takes ghostbusting to a ‘whole nother level’. Our protagonist Karl has been drifting in and out of jobs since leaving school but when he hires on with the Department of Environment and Waste, he has finally found his calling. Not that he expected his job would be to help usher the dearly departed to the great beyond but after a few jobs with his mentor, Archie, he’s hooked. Things are going along swimmingly as Karl begins to pick up tricks of the trade from Archie that is…until the latest call for help. Sometimes the dead can get a bit confused and aren’t sure what to do when they pass over from the living that is where Archie and Karl come in to help with the transition but then you have those who don’t want to let go they fight to come back and possess the bodies of the living. These are The Lost. [...]
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iHunt: Killing Monsters in the Gig Economy, by David A. Hill Jr., is a comedic horror about a young monster hunter trying to fit into modern society. Lana is a freelance hunter. She uses an app called iHunt, a tool that helps her track down potential gigs and leads. As she struggles to juggle her other job and pay her bills, she gets caught up in a territorial war between vampires. What’s more, she has to deal with Natalie, a mysterious vampire warns her that the human race could be enslaved by a powerful vampire. As the fighting escalates, Lana must use her wits to try and escape with both her life and finances intact. In this humorous adventure, Hill delves into the macabre world of monsters, all the while satirizing the ruthless reality that both monsters and humans thrive in. I like Lana. She reminds me of myself, other freelance writers, and nearly half of America’s millennials. You take a job you’re given, and that’s that. You can’t complain about the job to your employer, nor can you argue for better working conditions. And even in the cool, ever-evolving world of the monster world, as it turns out, you’re [...]
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Reviewed by Paula Limbaugh Holy cow! I’ve been a fan of Michaelbrent Collings’ books for a long time some I like a bit more than others, but I have never been disappointed in any of them. Terminal just happens to fall in the latter category. The synopsis had me intrigued, the story… on the edge of my seat! The night is like any other at the small bus terminal in Idaho. Not much traffic only a handful of people waiting for the next bus out. A fog is beginning to envelop the building soon they will realize there is more to this fog as it thickens- much more. The fog has brought an Other to join this hapless group now trapped within the walls of the bus terminal along with a cryptic message… only 1 will leave  all in favor. With the power cut off and no longer able to communicate with the outside world the group must use whatever means possible to survive. As in all his books, Collings does a fantastic job in fleshing out his characters, we are able to form opinions, who to root for, who to dislike; yet as the story progresses, we find perhaps [...]
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The Demon of Decay, by Alex C. Gates, is a religious horror about how easy it can be to corrupt someone just from their deepest desires. Joseph “Joe” Daniels is struggling to impregnate his wife, Victoria. He’s sitting in a doctor’s office getting tested, when he meets his former pastor, a man who murdered his daughter’s ex-boyfriend. The encounter spurs him to see his Aunt and Uncle, both of whom need help. After convincing Victoria to go see them, the two head to their house. However, the moment he steps foot in their home, he’s horrified by how much things have changed. His beloved Aunt is dying, as is his town. As time passes, he notices a decadence eating away at the residents, a decadence that eventually catches up to he and Victoria. In this dark story, Gates delivers a simple message about what happens when humans decide to chain themselves to their lusts, all the while ignoring their crumbling morality. I loved Victoria and Joseph. Victoria took a traditionally masculine role in order to support their growing family, which, according to Joseph, left him with nothing. It shows just how deeply embedded his expectations are. He felt useless. At [...]
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Don’t Look Away, by William Dalphin, is a horror anthology filled with twisted endings and grotesque plots that strips away the facade of the mundane. Don’t Look Away consists of 35 frightening tales, all of which are accompanied with creepy illustrations by Emily Holt. From suspenseful tales such as She Found Her Way Into My Home, to more mysterious gothic stories, like The Crawling House on Black Pond Road, many of the stories bring a macabre light to an otherwise boring reality. The illustrations add a layer of tension into each story; though some of the images are genuinely horrifying, others help build up the world presented in sac of the stories. While they can be repetitive at times, even predictable, Dalphin still manages to weave succinct, interesting stories that will capture and hold a reader’s attention, all the while gently nudging them into the next story. One story that stood out in this collection was Hunger. It was about a psychiatrist who encounters a grotesque patient, clutching a trash bag to her chest. When the doctor asked what was in the bag, the patient merely answered that they were leftovers. I’m currently a mental health advocate, so my heart [...]
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Reviewed by Paula Limbaugh Wow, what an awesome story. To think such an innocuous item such as a stuffed animal could have such a tale to relay. Doggem by John F Leonard is an imaginative story of a boy and his dog, well actually stuffed toy dog. Some of you may remember doing this or even have children who have… a teacher makes a classroom mascot of a stuffed animal and assigns children to take turns bringing the mascot home for a few days and then write of their time together diary style in hopes of the teacher gaining some insight of the family dynamics. Well, it’s 5-year-old George’s turn to bring home Doggem and oh what a lucky boy is he, his turn just happens to fall on the start of a six-week summer break from school. Told from the perspective of Doggem rather than George we find a special bond has been formed from the moment George first laid hands on Doggem. The first few weeks are ordinary enough it is when the family goes to pay Grandma Joan a visit that an insidious pall falls upon the narration. Dark magic is at work. Now, I can’t really [...]

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