Review: REVENGE by Yōko Ogawa (2013)

Genre: Adult Horror Short Story Collection
Year Release: 2010 (2022 on audio)
Source: Library Audiobook

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Listened to the audiobook
Trigger warnings: death of a child, blood, gore, surgery, mold, vomiting

My introduction to Yoko Ogawa is via this collection of short stories, each one scarier than the one that came before it. We follow a mourning mother, lovers in a quarrel, doctors too committed to their jobs, doctors not committed enough, and scoundrels slithering in the dark.

This short story collection itself reads like a single novel with several narrators, several which appear in different stories. Masterful in the way it amps the terror of otherwise pedestrian life.

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Review: THE ROUTE OF ICE AND SALT by José Luis Zárate (2021)

Genre: Adult Horror
Year Release: 2021 (1998 in Spanish)
Source: Library Audiobook

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Listened to the audiobook
Content/Trigger warnings: discussion of a hate crime, voyeurism, nightmares, PTSD

Continuing the series of vampire books we, as a culture, were not privy to until very recently (first of which is The Gilda Stories), this novella is a retelling of Dracula’s journey to England from the point of view of the ship’s captain. It originally came out in 1998, but debuted in English last year.

This novella is horny and gothic with all the pricks and discomfort of long months of an icy sea.

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Review: THE RESTING PLACE by Camilla Sten (2022)

Genre: Adult Thriller
Year Release: 2022
Source: Library Audiobook

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Listened to the audiobook
Content warning: murder, miscarriage, vomiting, gore, suicide, child abuse, child neglect

Eleanor has prosopagnosia – face blindness, which is very convenient when an unknown assailant leaves her grandmother, Vivianne, dead before a routine weekly dinner. She learns from a lawyer that her grandmother left an estate, but the stay turns deadly when accidents start taking place and it’s a race against something to unearth all of Vivianne’s secrets.

This thriller has a tightly knit mystery alternating between past and present within an ancestral manor.

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Review: AT NIGHT ALL BLOOD IS BLACK by David Diop (2018)

Genre: Adult Historical Fiction (Translated)
Year Release: 2018
Source: Unabridged Bookstore

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Content Warning: gore, violence, murder, trauma, PTSD

Alfa Ndiaye is a Senegalese man and a soldier with the French army during World War I. His more-than-brother, Medemba Diop, begs for death, but Alfa can’t do it. This haunts. What follows is an exploration of trauma and violence and a twist that made me press the book against my face and yell.

This book is hypnotic and another adventure in “the less you know going in, the better.” Like a lot of books that are considered literary fiction, not a lot happens. The event of Alfa failing to mercy kill Mademba takes place both on- and off-screen. There’s no plot, there’s just a lot of processing. There’s also an overt sexual overtone to the seduction of war and the emergent forced proximity that’s appropriately uncomfortable.

It’s brutal and unflinching in places, so if up-close descriptions of violence and dehumanization of enemies and allies isn’t your thing, look elsewhere. War is as much a character as the trauma and the literal players in this story. It’s such a masterful work of prose and translation. This is definitely one of those that I’ll be revisiting because there is so much to chew on.

Review: TENDER IS THE FLESH by Agustina Bazterrica (2020)

Genre: Adult Literary Fiction Horror
Year Release: 2021
Source: Audible

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Listened to the audiobook
Content warnings: cannibalism, slaughterhouse machinations, humans as sustenance, sexual abuse, rape, blood play, violence against puppies

In the alternate universe in which this book takes place, a virus has made all meat poisonous to humans, except for that certain hunger. The rest is told from the perspective of Marcos, a worker at one of the facilities whose life is falling apart. Until he’s “gifted” with a female, and things get worse from there.

While low on plot and shock value beyond its conceit, the ending punched me in the face on a journey that is very frank with its depiction and high in its interiority.

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Review: FEVER DREAM by Samanta Schweblin (2014)

Rating: 4/5 stars
Genre: Adult Horror
Year Release: 2014
Source: Library Audiobook

Listened to the audiobook

A short, psychologically twisty novel about a mother at death’s door talking to a child which may or may not be hers.

I really enjoyed the atmosphere. It takes place in the country, and the lengths the descriptions go on to depict it as a respite from the city crank the unsettling. The fact that it is told entirely in dialogue with none of the tenses matching in a cause-and-effect way increases the dread. Many different types of fear are tackled in this one, especially around parenthood and acceptance, but also of mortality and the things not done yet.

The pacing and tensions are also superb, which makes this book really live up to its title.