I was introduced to Rio Youers and his writing when I attended my first horror convention. I picked up a copy of his novel, Mama Fish and added it to my ever-growing pile of books to read. Mama Fish was a quick, good read that I highly enjoyed. Fueled by my enjoyment of Mama Fish and my love for short stories, I immediately jumped at the chance to pick up his next book, Dark Dreams, Pale Horses. Needless to say, I was not disappointed.
Dark Dreams, Pale Horses is a collection of six short stories written by Youers with an introduction by Brian Keene.
Pure: There is always a need for salvation during times of infection. Pure is a story set in the near future, however Youers spins a much different tale than what you’d expect from your regular run-of-the-mill vampire story.
This Is The Summer Of Love: Terri and Billy are the main characters in this story of love, protection, and need. Terri lives in a black and white world of sadness, at least until she meets Billy, who becomes her knight in Technicolor armor.
Ghost Of Lillian Bliss: An elderly woman suffering from Alzheimer’s recants a story from her childhood. While present memories seem to elude her, she has no problem digging up the images from her childhood.
Chrysalis: The world as we know it is now a cold, desolate place where people are forced up mountains to chase the sunlight and children are born at death’s door. Angelo, the main character, cares for the children in this touching fable of sorrow and hope.
Alice Bleeding: After an asteroid decimates parts of Australia, thirty-three survivors remain and wait for rescue. Sally, her four-month-old son and her husband survived but the bitterness she carries is destroying her marriage. The group waiting for rescue thinks the worst is over, but something more horrible approaches.
Promised Land Blues: Jonathan’s life long dream is to drive across the USA in a 1955 baby-pink Cadillac, stopping in every city mentioned in Elvis Presley’s song, “Promised Land”. While the road trip should be a week to remember, it takes a turn for the worse as mysterious events unfurl surrounding the ‘55 Cadillac.
Youers has a near-poetic way of writing. “Beautifully-written” would be the most accurate way to describe the rich environments, characters and the overall feel of every story.
***Dark Dreams, Pale Horses is recommended as Mandytory reading***
Thinking it would simplify my first reviewing task, I chose “Black Bubbles” a short story collection by Kelli Owen. I figured I could read a few stories per sitting, over the course of a few days. I could take my time, jot down take some notes on the stories and then formulate a concise review. The idea was sound, but once I started reading Black Bubbles, my plan changed.
Story after story, I was hooked and I couldn’t put the book down.
The collection contains 21 stories of differing themes. From ghosts to zombies, to serial killers and women scorned, Kelli’s stories touch on all kinds of scary things nightmares are made from. Through her descriptive storytelling, her words paint an easy-to-imagine picture in your mind’s eye, allowing you to follow her well-developed characters as they deal with their extraordinary situations. The lengths of the 21 tales vary from quick flash reads, 500 words long, (“The Rabbit” and “Brian Made Me Do It”), to full-length short stories (“Spell” and “How’s That Make You Feel?”). There’s even a “poetry-esque” free verse entitled “Shadows in a Bowl of Soup.”
Here are a few of the stories that stood out and deserve extra mention:
“The Worst intentions”: Patti and Debbie are the main characters in this short but intense story. The action begins almost immediately with a scene involving the two women and what should be ultimate terror, yet Kelli Owen paints an eerie picture of calm and serenity as they come to terms with their situation.
“Potential”: A story of secrets, loneliness, dating and death. The twists in this plot will keep the reader guessing throughout the story.
“Trials and Tribulations of Dr. Jekyll’s Third Cousin Twice Removed”: The title alone is enough to pique interest in the reader. The story is a humorous but disgusting account of what may happen when homemade acne cream comes with mutative side effects. “Trials and Tribulations… Removed” is easily the most horrific story in the collection.
“Black Bubbles”: The story after which the collection is named is the final story in the book. Henry is trying to stay alive, just like everyone else. The “Shadows”/black bubbles are like nothing anyone has ever seen before. Kelli walks us through a scary day-in-the-life-of-Henry and what could happen if our nightmares ever became real.
Black Bubbles is proof that some of the scariest tales are sometimes formed from the most mundane of ideas. The author’s notes included at the end of each chapter allow the reader a personal glimpse into the mind of the writer, as Kelli Owen takes a few moments to describe how the ideas for her stories came to be.
Kelli Owen has once again excelled in her ability to weave a story—or 21 of them—which will captivate the reader from start to finish. The variety of themes in Kelli’s storytelling ensures there is something to suit all tastes. Black Bubbles will please both the serious horror fan and the short story aficionado.
Black Bubbles is Recommended as Mandytory Reading!