Review: Sandcastle and Other Stories – Justin Bog

sandcastle and other stories cover

I received this book in exchange for an honest review.

SYNOPSIS: These twelve literary, psychological, and suspense tales are nothing short of an adventure through a roiling sea of emotion. Meet: an old man twisted by fate and a lost love . . . a young girl playing on the ocean shore who becomes entangled in nets of a mercurial god . . . a divorced man mired in troubles who’s coerced into taking a singles cruise . . . a Hollywood actor in a television drama who’s always typecast as the bad boy . . . a child kept awake by night terrors, and a woman who hides her secretive personality from everyone on the beach one sunny day. Genuine voices of the characters, mixed with a clear-eyed tonal directness, make this a series with mesmerizing psychological interaction. Stories span a broad depth of human understanding and build a bridge between deepest chasms of pain and high portals of joy. Read these dark tales and stand witness to unspeakable hate sitting with cozy wile, right beside unconditional love — a provocative and compelling mirror on the human condition. – via Goodreads

GRADE 7.5I was pleasantly surprised by this. I picked it up, was interested to see the short stories that featured, and there were some solid reviews about it. I had no real idea what to expect from the author, who is someone I had not heard of before, or his style of writing or the type of content. Something I am going to draw attention to from the off is the fact that Justin Bog can write. I mean it, really well. It flows quite well, each story brought something different to the table, even though a lot of them had repeating themes (such as oceans, twins, waves, paranoia, trees, psychological issues, names, etc). Bog’s writing style is engaging and creepy, and all his stories featured here are quite unsettling and psychologically creepy, crawling in under your skin. This might not appeal to the average reader, or someone who does not like some twisted tales, and it will upset those thinking they are getting a light, happy-go-lucky read. However, it totally ticked all my boxes for a short story. Doesn’t give away too much, but just enough to make you think, to wonder, and the way that Bog concludes the stories is also quite good, leaving a world of possibilities open to explore. Sandcastle and Other Stories is a really fast read, so it won’t demand an overkill of your time, and offers a great alternative to the average lot of short stories, something I am not usually a fan of. I looked forward to every story, and even when my mind went wandering, it never strayed too far, and always whipped back to the moment. Each story contains a darkness that is executed very well, and some of these stories linger long after you have  moved on. I am so glad that I took a chance on this, as I am certainly looking forward to reading more of Bog’s work, I would love to see how a full fledged novel from him would play out. If you are into short stories, or would like something that is quick but different, I would highly recommend Sandcastle and Other Stories.

Review: 20th Century Ghosts – Joe Hill

20th century ghosts cover

SYNOPSIS: A collection of short stories.

Imogene is young and beautiful. She kisses like a movie star and knows everything about every film ever made. She’s also dead and waiting in the Rosebud Theater for Alec Sheldon one afternoon in 1945….

Arthur Roth is a lonely kid with big ideas and a gift for attracting abuse. It isn’t easy to make friends when you’re the only inflatable boy in town….

Francis is unhappy. Francis was human once, but that was then. Now he’s an eight-foot-tall locust and everyone in Calliphora will tremble when they hear him sing….

John Finney is locked in a basement that’s stained with the blood of half a dozen other murdered children. In the cellar with him is an antique telephone, long since disconnected, but which rings at night with calls from the dead….

The past isn’t dead. It isn’t even past… – via Goodreads

GRADE 7.5I am sure it is common knowledge by now that I am a massive Joe Hill fan (thank you Cara). This is one of the few books I haven’t read, so when Melissa at The Creative Fox Den let me know she was reading 20th Century Ghosts, she sparked all sorts of envy in me and I jumped at the small gap in my schedule to fit in another book. Wow, worth every single second. This book is a compendium of short stories by Hill. Some are brilliant, some are alright, some are downright bizarre (which I appreciate, it means he thinks outside the box), some are freaky, others make you think, and some are just so weird you don’t even know how to comprehend what you just read. Some of the shorts showed you small ideas that were later realised in his bigger novels, or you can draw parallels to, and those really get under the skin. I was fascinated from page one, and loved the collection of stories that came together in here, so many different types, some that stand out more than others, but all of them pretty well written. Voluntary Committal was an incredibly interesting and exceptionally creepy story, I loved it and think it was hands down my favourite one, and the longest short in the book. That could definitely have made one crazy novel, but I sort of like it just being that short little bit. Obviously the book is a good read and relatively fast read, too, and it is engaging (as if I expected any less). I enjoyed every moment with this book for so many reasons, and I can most certainly recommend it!

Review: Night Shift – Stephen King

stephen king the night shift cover

Night Shift is a collection of short stories that Stephen King has written. Each and every story had its own characters and its own events and was very well strung together. I am not exactly quite sure how to review this, so I have decided to simply list each book and a quick description of what it was.

Jerusalem’s Lot: A man moves into his familial home and writes to his friend, but soon realises that the villagers are terrified of his home and the history behind it, though they refuse to tell him what that is all about.

Graveyard Shift: Over a Fourth of July weekend a whole group of men from work are pulled together to sort of the basement of their building for extra cash, but their clean up soon reveals far more than they were prepared to deal with.

Night Surf: A small group of people are together after it the world’s population seems to have been wiped up by a strange virus. They are among the only remaining survivors of the deadly disease.

I Am The Doorway: A retired and crippled astronaut tells a fantastical tale to his friend, fearing that there is something terrible on the go, something that he is a part of and has no control over – something he definitely blames on his last space expedition. His friend does not believe him until confronted with undeniably strong proof.

The Mangler: A Laundromat encounters problems when there seems to be numerous bloody accidents around an industrial machine which is used to press towels.

The Boogeyman: A man visits a therapist to get his story out about the events that led to the suspicious deaths of his family.

Grey Matter: A young boy enters a convenience store and is terrified, and tells a chilling tale of his alcoholic father that has certainly become infected with something, and the locals draw their own educated conclusions that the boy’s father may very well be behind some disappearances in town.

Battleground: An assassin returns home after his contract of taking down a toy maker. Discovering a package when he arrives, he is in no ways prepared for the assault that is to follow, and will need to keep his wits about him more than he could ever imagine.

Trucks: The human population has got issues when one day it seems all large automobiles seem to have gained life of their own and are taking over the world, killing and/or enslaving all the people.

Sometimes They Come Back: A teacher starts a new job at a new school after a psychological break, but soon some strange students come calling, students from a past that have no business following him, students that could not possibly be where they are.

Strawberry Spring: A man recalls a period eight years previously after seeing a newspaper article that reminds him of the false summer (Indian Summer) that they had a few years ago, but also of the terrible series of murders that occurred and could seemingly not be stopped, and just suddenly ended when the Indian Summer did. The man wonders if the same fate will be suffered again.

The Ledge: A man confronts his lover’s husband and is set with an ultimatum: he can have the other man’s wife if he walks along the ledge that runs around the building in a specified amount of time. If he completes it, he will walk away with a substantial amount of cash, his life, and his lover’s freedom.

The Lawnmower Man: A man whose garden used to be his pride and joy allows it to become a little overgrown jungle. Deciding one day enough is enough, he calls in a garden service, and a sizable man comes to help him. However, the service that he got was not quite the service he was expecting.

Quitters, Inc.: A man runs into an old school friend who is looking well, given up smoking and has a wonderful life. The friend recommends that a company be used to help the man quit smoking, who is not serious about it but makes an appointment anyway. However, the meeting that ensues takes that choice clean out of his hands about whether or not he still wants to smoke.

I Know What You Need: A young man befriends a girl that he is incredibly interested in, and he seems to know exactly what she needs before she needs it. The girl has a boyfriend though, and he stands between the young man and the girl of his dreams. What lengths will he go to in order to be with her?

Children of the Corn: A couple gets lost on the way out of town where they will “work” on their relationship. Lost on a highway, they run over a child. The husband ascertains that the child’s throat was actually slit. The couple moves on to the closest town to report their findings, and instead find a ridiculously deserted town that gives them the chills. Something lurks in there.

The Last Rung on the Ladder: A brother is completely guilt-ridden over the life his younger sister had led, and recalls an afternoon of their childhood in an attempt to pinpoint where in her life things went wrong, and how he was not there for her as much as he should have been, as well as the latest burden her last letter has brought to him.

The Man Who Loved Flowers: A young man captivates the attention of virtually everyone he passes, and even buys flowers for the love of his life. His attitude is loving and completely infectious, yet underneath something unseen lurks, desperate to make it to the surface.

One for the Road: Two old men are relaxing and drinking one snow swept night when an out-of-towner comes bursting in with a mild case of frostbite, screaming about how his car went off the road and how his wife and child are still in in waiting for him. The locals are very reluctant to help the man due to the inexplicable and evil things that lurk in the dark just outside of town, but decide to help the man anyway.

The Woman in the Room: A man is dealing with many personal issues, the most prominent being his terminally ill mother. The man makes the impossible decision – he will use painkillers to euthanise his mother.

GRADE 8This is a solid compendium from a brilliant author. The stories were pretty short, making this book feel like it simply flew by. There was more than one occasion where it occurred to me that something was terribly off and disgusting, which I am sure is what King was going for. I enjoyed the stories that were chosen to feature in here and there was not one boring one for me. King manages to weave an intricate web through numerous stories, people, places and object, and manages to keep you spellbound from the off. I know a lot of people don’t necessarily like hauling through an entire Stephen King novel, but I know that the short stories should definitely pique your interest and be looked into. There were some ridiculously fantastical stories, some that were more psychologically thrilling, some that were something directly from your dreams… there was basically a horror story in here for everyone. Another fun read for me, and something I would recommend.