Beyond the Cogs
Full disclosure: I was provided a complimentary copy by one of the authors. All opinions are my own.
This collection features three novellas, so I’ll be discussing them individually.
The Soulless Ones by C. Vonzale Lewis
I had the opportunity to be a beta reader for this incredible adventure, and I was absolutely in awe of the changes Lewis was able to incorporate from the rougher draft I read before. She has an incredible knack for creating unique characters and spectacular worlds, and I absolutely love her creativity in this story. It has an Old West feel with a distinct steampunk style and deals with monsters reminiscent of vampires. Her unique style really shines in this story. It’s an absolutely fun read and I truly hope we’ll get more stories about Parasol because I could read a whole collection about her adventures!
The Rogue of Vangard by Nicholas J. Evans
This tale was more abstract and more visually focused so it took a bit for me to warm up to the story and characters. Once we get into a steampunk taxi ride with a law-straddling driver, a stuffy top politician, and our thieving protagonist, the entire story shifts with growing tension. We learn how corrupt the city is that our protagonist is stealing from, we learn how brainwashed the politician is, and how controlled the magic is in this world. The ending is the topping on the cake so I can’t spoil it here, however I was sad to see this unique world end. I grew to love so many characters in such a short few pages. I would love to read more in this world!
Gossamer and Thorns by Elle Beaumont
Now this story was reminiscent of the Vincent Price classics such as Fall of the House of Usher. Wealthy young Kris has fallen in love with Emilie who has a chronic disease. He lives in an abusive home with his father who is obsessed with transferring human souls into automatons. Kris’ father is an even more unbalanced Victor Frankenstein. Admittedly, I don’t usually read romance stories so since Kris and Emilie’s relationship filled the majority of the story, that was a struggle for me. Readers who love a budding romance will probably adore this story. It had some wonderful twists that I didn’t see coming and I was pleasantly surprised by the ending.
Overall this is a strong anthology with only a few authors but with a wide variety of steampunk. As a fan of steampunk (and a dabbler in it myself), I had an absolute blast reading these. Definitely recommended for readers looking to dive into another world for a while. And I’ve found new authors to obsess over.
My rating: 5/5 stars
Batman: Fear Itself
By: Michael Reaves and Steven-Elliot Altman
This was a refreshing tale involving not only a desperate horror author but also one of my favorite Batman villains, The Scarecrow. I really loved the analysis of horror writing “going too far” with scaring readers, and whether the potential liability falls on the shoulders of the author. Of course that question gets ramped up since this involves the Scarecrow.
I grew to like Ulysses Cutter, the afflicted henchman that worked with Crane. However I struggled to like Maggie as a character since we ended up having both Bruce Wayne and the Horror Author fighting over her attention. I had some issues with the ending, but if you read enough comics or watch enough comic book movies, it’s not terribly surprising.
I enjoyed the characters and the setup, and I chuckled multiple times at the literary references and classic horror movie references. I may be biased toward this story since I am a horror author myself. 😉
Overall a fun read if predictable at the end.
My Rating: 4/5 stars
Frightful Fables Volume I
By: DC Phillips
This was a short collection of horror short stories, but there was so much wry humor! I really loved “You Can Run, But You Can’t Hide” with the flip of expectations. I think my favorite was “Patches” though. Who could say no to the kitties?
Overall each of these tales left a lasting impression with some truly wonderful twists that made me smile. I loved the inclusion of artwork to really set the mood for each piece too! Overall this was a fun read!
My Rating: 5/5 Stars!
I Never Meant To Start A Murder Cult
By: Darrell Z. Grizzle
A series of short stories ranging from bizarre dead bodies to spectral entities in hospital windows. I never knew what to expect from one story to the next and it was fantastic. I loved how he embraced the weird, the unexplained, and the surreal.
Grizzle has a wide range in tone and time period. Some of these like “We Ride On The Wind” could easily have been expanded into a full-length novel, and I would be one of the first to pick up a copy.
I can’t wait to see what he does next!
My Rating: 5/5 Stars!
All Those Broken Angels
By Peter Adam Solomon
An abstract tale swirling around possession, romance, and a mystery written in a gorgeous poetic prose. This novel is captivating with a strong vein of supernatural and strange.
We follow Richard who has confused memories about his friend Melanie and is haunted by a dark spirit that has attached to him. The descriptions of the dark spirit interfering with his everyday life, of it closing in on him while he was in bed, and the description of it taking away his autonomy was absolutely chilling. Full disclosure, as someone who grew up in a haunted house, this was a hard book for me at first. I found it very unsettling which I rarely find in ghost novels like this. I loved it.
Slowly we learn more about Melanie, the strange situation around her childhood, the bizarre spirit that has invaded their lives, and the dark secret they must uncover. Overall this story flips around quickly, leaves you down many wrong turns and dead ends, and has you trying to guess what will happen next. It is an absolutely incredible reading experience.
Once again Peter Salomon knocks it out of the park!
My Rating: 5/5 Stars!