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  • Writer's pictureChristina Pfeiffer

Christina Critiques

Updated: Apr 7

Let’s not dilly dally! There are too many amazing books to review.


 

THE SPACE BETWEEN

By Larry Hinkle


Samantha Hawkins read this collection and immediately had to put it on my radar so of course, I had to read for myself and friends, I was not disappointed. While there are twenty-one short stories, I will only be taking a look at eight. But they were my favorites.


That’s What Friends Are For - Growing up isn’t easy on anyone, including imaginary friends but ignoring them may have consequences.


Strange Constellations - Two friends run from the nieghborhood bullies and escape into a cornfield maze. But nothing is as it seems anywhere they look.


Loop De Loop De Loop - Time travel 101 is now in session and it’s a short course.


Can You Dig It? - Lisa’s birthday gift from her husband, Mike, might be a hand-me-down but it still gets the jobs done.


Sharing is Caring - What happens when the bully gets his - just desserts? (Nudge)


Necrophiliacs Anonymous - A new member NA tells his story after hearing the others speak and things get a bit messy.


Meat Cute - When the narrator finally invites a girl he met at the bookstore to dinner, he can’t get his mind off her boobs.


Nicholas - What happens when Santa’s magic begins to fade. I REALLY wish this was a whole novella.


There isn’t a bad story in the whole collection and definitely has something for everyone. I cannot wait to read more from Hinkle.


A DEFINITE RECOMMEND 5/5.


 

CHARCOAL

By Garrett Cook


Cook knows how to suck you into a story. Even though it has birds in it (I have ornithophobia), I couldn’t stop reading/listening to it.


Shannon finds charcoals that brings drawings to life. Not only that, the birds can peck away memories to feed on them. When the ghost in the charcoal calls to her, does she take the offer? Or does she go her own way?


I know, ghost in charcoal, wtf am I right? But stay with me, kids, it makes more than enough sense when you get into it. What Cook can do with something so ordinary and turn it sinister reminds me of Bentley Little. It’s a bit of Dorian Gray meets Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (with the memories). I prrrrromise it works.


And the narration adds so much to it. Cook’s stories have something about them that in the wrong narrators voice, they would not be as effective but this one… I tell you it got me. Terri Lynne Hudson did a remarkable job bringing CHARCOAL to life.


A must read/listen and A HIGHLY,  HIGHLY RECOMMEND 5/5.


 

DARK RIDE VOL. 1

By Joshua Williamson, Andrew Bressan, and Adriano Lucas


I was recommended this series by Dustin Whalen and he did not disappoint.


What happens when a man is pushed past his limits and kicked while he is down? Well, he builds a scary amusement park! Making it a family affair, Authur Dante, the creator of Devil Land, and his children, Samhain and Halloween, don’t always see eye to eye. When these three and a sister looking for answers of her brother’s death collide, no one is ready for the loop de loops coming.


This series is amazing at world building. It makes you want to know more about what is lurking in the park, down the dark alleyways, and in the shadows. Plus, the art is rich and at times, a little too realistic (in a good way).


A definite must read for horror fans (Vol. 2 will be next week). But so far, it’s a HIGHLY, HIGHLY RECOMMEND 5/5.


 

HELL INCORPORATED

By Jeff Folschinsky


Well, well, well, if it isn’t my old friend horror comedy. Everyone knows I’m a sucker for Hell, demons, Satan, whatever. And HELL, INCORPORATED is no different.


Folschinsky drops the reader straight into an exorcism. And well, it doesn’t go exactly as planned. It also happens to be Marv… I mean Max’s first day working with Ninth Gate Incorporated. The company is going through some stuff so they have to hire who they can get. Marv… oops, Max isn’t prepared for the insanity that is his first day but really, who could be?


I have not laughed out loud that much at a book in a long time. The pacing is so fast, that the story is over before you know it! So there better be more (glares in hint). I will tell you one thing though, I will forever side eye the dancing wind men that are outside of car lots. I don’t trust them anymore.


I believe I have found my new author to binge.


This sweet bitch gets on my Top Ten of 2024. A DOUBLE HIGHLY RECOMMEND 10/5.



 
 

Stoker Nominees for Special Achievement in Long Fiction


DESPATCHES

By Lee Murray


I’m not good with historic novels or stories, typically. But every once in a blue moon, one sucks me right in and I hold on for dear life until the end. DESPATCHES is one of those very lucky few.


Cassius Smythe is on the front line of the land offensive on the Dardanelles Peninsula. Being a reporter is hard enough with the censorship of his articles and letters back home but when a local urban legend is also brought into the fold, the men and women there must watch for more than the enemy’s bullets.


Look, I’m not going to lie. That synopsis doesn’t tell you anything of what is really in this short novella. Local folklore, fear, war, incompetence of leadership, familial strife, loyalty, and so much more whisks you back in time to the front line yourself. And friends, it ain’t pretty. Written in epistolary format (which is my favorite), it makes the twists and turns all that more personal feeling.


A Lovecraftian war story. 5/5.


 

“RUMPUS ROOM”

By Tananarive Due


Kat is on the run… from her responsibilities and her mistakes. While her mother is back home with Kat’s daughter, because of an injury that could have been prevented, Kat meets Fuller who is looking for help around his house. Fate steps in for Kat but is everything as it seems?


I was NOT prepared for the emotions I went through with this story. From Kat’s running to meeting Fuller and everything that happens after… 0.0% prepared and I don’t know if I will ever be able to completely shake this story. It hits different as a parent but also as someone who makes really dumb personal mistakes daily. And the ending is so open-ended so if you don’t like those kinds of stories, this isn’t for you. But you know what, no other ending would have worked. It fits the story perfectly and I will die on that hill.


My first by Due but certain not my last. Perfection in storytelling and suspenseful world building are in the RUMPUS ROOM. 5/5.


 

LINGHUN

By Ai Jiang


LINGHUN may be the best haunted house story I have ever read. At least the most creative and heartbreakingly beautiful I have read for sure. Much like her fellow nominees, there is so much more than surface level with this story.


Wenqi and her family move into a new house… that they want to be haunted. But to get one of these houses, most much wait on the lawn for the chance to bid on the vacancy. Secrets, backstabbing, friendship, guilt, forgiveness, and more will change each characters life and not for the better.


The brilliance of this story is in what’s not writing or said. The characters are so rich and deep that the reader is not only invested but pleading for more. I took seven pages of notes on this story, and honestly I know I could have done more. I need to reread this one and annotate because it begs to be connected with.


Pure perfection. 10/5.


 

THE SALT GROWS HEAVY

By Cassandra Khaw


In the simplest of synopsis, THE SALT GROWS HEAVY is about a mother who goes in search of her voice and to help a friend who has been by her side. But it’s so much more than that; it’s about how when women become mothers and wives we lose ourselves, our voices. Khaw explores what it means to truly find your voice again, one must find inner strength and face fears. While feminism is a focal point of the story, I found myself in the main character so many times. The willingness to give of oneself for someone else, allow yourself laid completely open and vulnerable in order to gain strength… this is a masterpiece.


I’m going to be really honest in this, Cassandra Khaw isn’t for the typical horror reader. Nope. Khaw is for the reader that craves intelligent writing, to learn (meaning pick up a dictionary), and to open one’s mind more than usual. I see a lot of negative talk about her writing but I have to ask, is it really her?


100% obsessed. 10/5.


 

SLEEP ALONE

by J.A.W. McCarthy


This one took me a bit to get through. I wasn’t sure where it was going but once I got about 30% in, I couldn’t put the story down. (Ask the poor people sharing a table with me at the indoor playground as I gasped numerous times over an hour.)


Ronnie tours with the band. She’s not a groupie, no. She’s the Mother hen, the glue that holds the band together, the reason for their being… the way they are. When she meets Helene, not only does she fall for her but they share a very deep, dark secret that will test Ronnie’s friendship with the band as well as her decision to make them what they are.


There is a loooooot happening in this book. From jealousy to LGBT+ representation, McCarthy wants us to question things as she writes. And I wasn’t prepared for the amount of emotion I had at the end. What lengths are we willing to go to to not — SLEEP ALONE.


Amazing! 4.5/5.

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