Saturday, October 1, 2011

Review: Playing With Fire

Review: Playing With Fire
Playing with Fire (Anthology of Horror)
Title: Playing With Fire
Author: Susan Evelyn, Robynn Gabel, Nomar Knight, CAV Laster, Coral Russell, Brian Fatah Steele, and Chryse Wymer
Publisher: Nook/ ebook edition
Pages: 147
Rating ****
Review Source: one of the authors Coral Russell

Back of Book Synopsis: (from Goodreads)

Scare easily? Are you often frightened out of your sleep? Does the mere mention of ghosts prickle your skin?  These seven authors’ imaginations are fired up by the scariness of the unknown.  Find a comfy spot, sit back and enjoy nine tales to tickle your taste for terror.

Susan Evelyn - Best Served

Revenge is sweet they say. But is Anna going to be able to hold the right ones accountable?

 Robynn Gabel - Widows of the Night

Step inside a child's world that is filled with monsters. In her struggle to search for and figure out what love is she will discover what a monster really is.

 Nomar Knight - Bitten

Rob Compton is unemployed and on the verge of getting a divorce when his pet German Shepherd, Shotgun, comes home intent on having him for lunch. Once bitten, Rob decides to show his wife what 'death do us part' really means.

 CAV Laster - Playing with Fire

During what seems to be the end of the world for others, Kalen discovers his has only begun. Appalling secrets unravel his world and force him to fight for his survival. Will Kalen be able to handle the truth?

 Coral Russell - Devil of a Ghost Tour

Lynn and Lee Hoyt decide a local ghost tour would be a fun date night. In an abandoned hotel on the tour, a demon and his minions have been waiting for just the right couple to come along. Can the ghost hunters, Hector and Marcos, save them before it's too late?

 Coral Russell - Key to a Haunting

Allen has lost everything, when his father gives him a downtown building to renovate. Trouble is, it's haunted. He calls in the Paranormal Posse to help, but can Hector and Marcos learn the truth in time to finally put the dead to rest?

 Coral Russell - Amador Lockdown (excerpt)

Something has moved into the Amador Hotel and is wreaking havoc with anyone who tries to stay. Hector, Marcos, Bev, and Tony of the Paranormal Posse are called in to either debunk the stories or get rid of whatever is causing the problems. Hector's life is in an uproar and while he tries to keep his professional and personal life separate, whatever is haunting the Amador Hotel has other plans.

Brian Fatah Steele - Flawed

When three generations of Gastlins gathered one weekend at a newly purchased home in 1998, they had no idea it would be their last reunion. Every family has its secrets, its little faults, but the skeletons came bursting out of the closets and grew infectious. Blood may be thicker than water, but it can still spill just as easily.

 Brian Fatah Steele - The Stuff Dreams Aren't Made Of

When your only hope is to suffer less than the day before, when misery is a normal state of being, and when atrocities greet all your senses every day, you only have to find new ways to dream.

 Chryse Wymer - This Dark Magic

Charlie Landers is a reporter for the Capital City Gazette when his hometown turns deadly. It begins with a blackout, and escalates to a crime rate so high that it's a miracle that anybody has lived to tell about it. Finally, he must do something when not only his life but the life of a loved one is threatened. In this quirky dark fantasy, Charlie Landers must navigate a dangerous world of black magic in order to save his little corner of the universe.

Chryse Wymer - Living with Murder (excerpt)

Kirk and Mary Miller live a simple life in the year 2035...until their college-aged son turns up dead. Their son's murderer is convicted and jailed, but a year later, The Agency for Privately Imprisoned Criminals becomes involved. The Agency had been formed when prison overcrowding grew out of control.

My thoughts:

This is a great collection of horror stories. Perfect for October and reading in anticipation for Halloween. I totally felt myself getting shivers even snuggled in the warmth of my bed. 

I did not like the layout much though, it was hard to tell where one story started and another ended. I would have wanted to see a title page for each new story. I also did not like the fact that excerpts were included because after reading them I wanted to read the whole story. But, these are really the only negative thing I have to say about it. 

This anthology had a really good mix of different types of horror stories from ghost stories to zombies to dystopian end of the world type stories. I really enjoyed all of the stories but I am only going to talk about the complete works and not the excerpts. (I’m kind of boycotting those because they left me feeling unsatisfied -- now I have "I can't get no Satisfaction..." stuck in my head)

Best Served: is more paranormal than horror, with the main character, Anna, seeking revenge for the murder of her friend. She goes to a bar and stalks groups of men who she thinks could be responsible for the death. The groups of suspects include vampires, werewolves, and a mysterious group. She plays the victim trying to lure out the murderer or murderers. 

Anna's character is fairly complicated, because you feel for her because her friend was killed but she is kind of unsympathetic in the fact that she went out with the intention of killing the murder. But you understand her emotions and the reason she wants to get revenge, but the act itself makes her just as bad as the murderers.

Widows of the Night: is about two girls who are abused by their mother. It is a really sad story because of the way the girls are treated and it practically broke my heart. The older sister finds a way to protect her younger sister and save both girls from their mother. Warning: If you have arachnophobia, this story is  not for you! 

I really enjoyed this one, it is probably my favorite in this anthology because of the heightened emotions that the story evokes as well as the creepy, skin crawly way it ends.

Bitten: is about a man who gets revenge on his cruel wife after he is bitten by the family dog and becomes a Zombie. 
What makes this story interesting is that it comes from the husband (zombie's) perspective. I have not read any books or stories where it comes from the Zombie's point of view. I think it added some humanity to a usually shock/gore value type of story. I also think that Knight does a good job of giving us a mindless zombie but also giving him enough of a consciousness to make the character even more creepy than a normal zombie. Knowing that he had enough reason to not kill his wife but decided to any way just adds to the creepy factor.

Playing with Fire: is about a boy, Kalen, who discovers the monster that is lurking beneath the surface in himself. First of all I feel like I have been reading the name Kalen a lot lately or maybe I am just going crazy because I can't think of any examples. 

This story is interesting because of the revelations that are made about Kalen and his past. I don't think I have read a story quite like this. It had a Frankenstein feel but the monsters were more creative. They are a kind of cross between demons, vampires and gargoyles. Very cool. I totally felt sorry for Kalen and hated his father. Why would someone do that to their child?

Devil of a Ghost Tour: is about a couple, Lynn and Lee Holt, who go on a ghost tour only to have Lee become possessed by a demon called up out of hell by a man seeking fortune in 1885.

I really liked the fact that despite the fact that this is a short story, Coral Russell was able to show us two time periods without me feeling like the story was rushed. I thought the relationship between Lynn and Lee was very cute and the concept of a ghost tour was really neat. I have been on several ghost tours but  nothing nearly as eventful as what happened in the story happened to me (thank God!)

Key to a Haunting: again deals with a haunted house but the romance and family history added a new and unique quality. I liked the way Russell was able to take true historical events (if moved to a new location- I'm not sure if one such fire actually happened in El Passo) with the fire of a factory where factory girls perished because of bosses locking doors so employees could not leave until the end of the work day. I also liked the fact that the ghost hunters were carried over from the previous story.

Flawed: is a story about a house that brings out the worst in the people who live there. I think that this story was very creepy and suspenseful. It had a Stephen King sort of feel to it mixed with a Charlotte Perkins Gillman (The Yellow Wallpaper) feel where the house drives people crazy. The first sentence of the second paragraph is really great " At the moment I am barricaded inside my niece's bedroom while my eldest brother prowls the outside corridor like a modern day Cain, ready to strike me down."

I thought it was especially creepy because of the fact that these traits were already present in the people but the house just magnified them. And I liked the fact that it looks like this is just going to keep happening with every new tenant   

The Stuff Dreams aren't Made of: Despite the kind of clunky title, this is a really great story. Very shiver worthy. The world has become a place where sin and greed have taken over. The cities were abandoned because of the corruption but soon, the refugee shanty towns have become just as bad as the cities. Those fleeing the cities have brought the same sickness and corruption with them. The main character is a man who is willing to lose everything for a small moment of escape. He trades his blood or his life essence for someone else's happy memories. 

I find the whole concept very freaky because of the nature of escapism that is in  our culture with movies, books and video games catering to it. I could actually see someone giving up their life for an escape from reality. Very thought provoking.

This Dark Magic: is about a journalist who discovers that black magic is being used against him and other people in the city. I really liked that it sounded like a black and white detective movie it was very well written and suspenseful.

Overall I give it ****


  1. Thank you for the review! Hehe you don't have to wait long, Amador Lockdown will be available Oct. 24th and I'll be happy to send you a copy! :-)

  2. That would be wonderful, thanks!!