Book Recommendation – “Spontaneous Human Combustion” By Richard Thomas

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Best Horror Books Best Of Featured Indie Horror Indie Horror Creation Indie horror writers

For December we bring you the upcoming release from Richard Thomas “Spontaneous Human Combustion.” We were fortunate enough to receive an ARC copy and can confidently say this is our final recommendation for 2021.

In this new collection, Richard Thomas has crafted fourteen stories that push the boundaries of dark fiction in an intoxicating, piercing blend of fantasy, science fiction, and horror. Equally provocative and profound, each story is masterfully woven with transgressive themes that burrow beneath the skin.

Portrait of Horror Writer Richard Thomas
Horror Author Richard Thomas

A Series of Short Horror Stories

• A poker game yields a strange prize that haunts one man, his game of chance now turned into a life-or-death coin flip.
• A set of twins find they have mysterious new powers when an asteroid crashes in a field near their house, and the decisions they make create an uneasy balance.
• A fantasy world is filled with one man’s desire to feel whole again, finally finding love, only to have the shocking truth of his life exposed in an appalling twist.
• A father and son work slave labor in a brave new world run by aliens and mount a rebellion that may end up freeing them all.
• A clown takes off his make-up in a gloomy basement to reveal something more horrifying under the white, tacky skin.

Powerful and haunting, Thomas’ transportive collection dares you to examine what lies in the darkest, most twisted corners of human existence and not be transformed by what you find.

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Spontaneous Human Combustion Book Cover by Richard Thomas

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

4.4 Stars on good Reads – 4.5 stars on Amazon

What the Reviewers Have to Say

Beat collection I’ve read since THINGS WE LOST IN THE FIRE by Mariana Enriquez. Thomas’s range is astounding.

Edward Lorn

I received the ARC for this collection a few months ago so that I could have time to read it and chat about it before its release on 02/22/22. I wish I had read it immediately upon receipt because it’s THAT good. So good that I will reread these stories, even have actually reread a couple already even though I just finished the collection recently. (I am determined that 2 stories were connected, that a character we meet in the beginning, we get his origin in a later story and I will die on that hill…but I won’t tell you who so you can reach your own conclusions…)

Each story is unique in its style and tone. Some are good old fashion classic horror, we have a few with sci fi elements, cosmic horror and magical realism. There were a couple I would have claimed were written by Stephen King and 2-3 I would have pinned on Stephen Graham Jones (two of my favorites, by the way) I did post mini-reviews of each story on my Instagram if you’re interested, I can be found on IG @the_nerdy_narrative.

I read one story per day and that is how I recommend approaching this collection because these stories will make you think. Some have those fun endings that give you plenty of fodder for your imagination to carry forward as to what could have happened going forward. Some are just thought provoking, ones that deep thinkers will enjoy exploring the meanings of actions of the characters or the underlying theme.

I was blown away by the collection as a whole – I loved every single story. Honestly. There was one that I was lackluster about, but the ending flipped it and made the whole story SHINE. (I may not have had enough coffee and missed some connections as to what was happening, lol) It’s rare I read a collection of this size and feel each story is a 5 star read, but this one is it…especially with all the stories being by the same author. Now I want to read EVERYTHING Richard Thomas has and anything he has coming out in the future.

Top short story collection of the year for me – trust me, it had some steep competition too! 

Lezlie The Nerdy Narrative

Thomas (The Soul Standard) breathes fresh air into the genre of dark speculative fiction with a brilliant collection that teems with haunting elements, dark nostalgia for lost love, dysfunctional families, and self-torment. These 14 stories ably demonstrate Thomas’s skill at conjuring visceral emotion through immaculate detail work. The gut-wrenching “Repent,” about a crooked ex-cop who makes the ultimate sacrifice to save his dying son, is told with an artist’s attention to scene setting. “Hiraeth,” about a farm boy with a “hole in his chest” who is robbed and subsequently punished by the men in the family, bristles with astonishing detail, realistic characters, and emotional depth. In “Ring of Fire,” an isolated scientist with an altered memory runs strange experiments on minerals, splicing horror and science fiction elements into an eerie tale about the evolution of the human mind amid isolation and interference. Equally devastating and refreshing, this is a collection to be savored by horror fans and literary readers alike.

Publishers Weekly

Book Recommendation – “The Twisted Ones” by T. Kingfisher

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Best Horror Books Best Of Featured

The Twisted Ones by T Kingfisher has some suggested reading before you dive in. You will want to go back to the 1890’s when the short horror story “The White People” was first written. This line, which will inevitably haunt you, “Then I made faces like the faces on the rocks, and I twisted myself about like the twisted ones, and I lay down flat on the ground like the dead ones” comes directly from “The White People.” The White People” is a short horror story by Welsh author Arthur Machen. Written in 1899 and first published in 1904 in Horlick’s Magazine, then reprinted in Machen’s 1906 collection The House of Souls.

The Twisted Ones carries forward this haunting tale. The original story was influential on some of the horror greats including H.P. Lovecraft.

“Machen’s narrative, a triumph of skillful selectiveness and restraint, accumulates enormous power as it flows on in a stream of innocent childish prattle”

H. P. Lovecraft

You can read “The White People” free here on Puzzle Box. It is a public domain work at this point in time.

The Twisted Ones Synopsis

When Mouse’s dad asks her to clean out her dead grandmother’s house, she says yes. After all, how bad could it be?

Answer: pretty bad. Grandma was a hoarder, and her house is stuffed with useless rubbish. That would be horrific enough, but there’s more—Mouse stumbles across her step-grandfather’s journal, which at first seems to be filled with nonsensical rants…until Mouse encounters some of the terrifying things he described for herself.

Alone in the woods with her dog, Mouse finds herself face to face with a series of impossible terrors—because sometimes the things that go bump in the night are real, and they’re looking for you. And if she doesn’t face them head on, she might not survive to tell the tale.

The Twisted Ones Review Quotes

This folk horror book has some great reviews.

Innovative, unexpected, and absolutely chilling, T. Kingfisher isn’t just breaking into the horror scene, she’s breaking it down.  With a hammer.

Hugo and Nebula Award-winning author Mira Grant

Laden with cosmic fright, The Twisted Ones connects the foreboding of ancient folklore with the horrors of modern life. But it does so with a sharp, witty voice and a compelling first-person protagonist who finds herself precariously straddling worlds she never knew existed.

Jason Heller ― NPR Books

We loved this book so it is our recommended read for this week.

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The Twisted Ones book cover featuring a spooky house in dark woods

Book Recommendation – Crazytimes

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Best Horror Books Best Of Featured Horror Books Indie Horror Reviews

Puzzle Box Horror’s book recommendation of the week is Crazytimes by Scott Cole.

Scott Cole is a writer, artist, and graphic designer living in Philadelphia. He writes mostly horror, bizarro, and absurdist fiction. He also likes old radio dramas, old horror comics, weird movies, cold weather, coffee, and a few other things too. Need a book layout or a movie poster designed? Want to option one of his stories for film? Feel free to contact him at [email protected]

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Synopsis

You wake up Monday morning and everyone is crazy. Everyone was already crazy, though, right? But somehow things are worse today. People are angry, throwing chairs out of office windows, eating rocks, violently scratching their necks, and running naked through the streets. They’re killing each other for no reason and laughing through the carnage. The whole city is like this. And meteors are falling from the hazy skies above. How are you going to survive? Do you even want to? This isn’t just another manic Monday. This is Crazytimes.

Review

“…fuses Cronenbergian body horror and visions of the apocalypse onto a wry, heartfelt-yet-absurdist first-person narrative that falls tonally somewhere between Joe Lansdale and Sam Raimi.”

Shawn Macomber, Rue Morgue

“A tongue-in-cheek orgy of gore-splattered insanity”

Peter Caffrey, Ginger Nuts of Horror

“The book is gruesome and fast-paced with lots of creative kill scenes. All manner of limbs are dismembered, bodies split open, and gory flung about with reckless abandon. It’s also really gross as whatever virus is infecting people has some real nasty side effects. Ultimately the book plays out like a trashy, fun, grindhouse B-movie (think Planet Terror meets The Crazies)”

Ben Long, reviewer at @reading.vicariously

Crazytimes by Scott Cole is available now at Horror Hub Marketplace

Book Recommendation – Crossroads

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Best Horror Books Best Of Featured Horror Books Reviews

Puzzle Box Horror’s book recommendation of the week is Crossroads by Laurel Hightower

Laurel Hightower grew up in Kentucky, attending college in California and Tennessee before returning home to horse country, where she lives with her husband, son and two rescue animals, Yattering the cat (named for the Clive Barker short story) and Ladybug the adorable mutt. She loves discovering new favorite authors, and supporting the writing and reading community. A bourbon and beer girl, she’s a fan of horror movies and true life ghost stories. Whispers in the Dark is her first novel, though there are always more in the pipeline, and she loves researching anything horror related. She can usually be found working on the next project into the wee hours, sometimes as late as ten at night, as long as her toddler allows.

Laurel Hightower author photo

SYNOPSIS

How far would you go to bring back someone you loved?

When Chris’s son dies in a tragic car crash, her world is devastated. The walls of grief close in on Chris’s life until, one day, a small cut on her finger changes everything. 

A drop of blood falls from Chris’s hand onto her son’s roadside memorial and, later that night, Chris thinks she sees his ghost outside her window. Only, is it really her son’s ghost, or is it something else—something evil?  

Soon Chris is playing a dangerous game with forces beyond her control in a bid to see her son, Trey, alive once again. 

Reviews

Crossroads is a gripping, deeply emotional ride. From its very first sentence to its shattering finale, this novella held me spellbound. If you aren’t reading Laurel Hightower, you’re missing out on one of horror’s brightest rising stars.”

Jonathan Janz, author of The Raven and Children of the Dark

Grief addicts unite! This book should come with a free therapy session, or at the very least a box of tissues. What a heavy read. I could feel the sorrow and pain coming off the pages as I read, and after finishing it I was completely wrecked. Overall this is an incredible novella, and one of my favorite reads of the year so far!”

Ben (@reading.vicariously)

To read the full review, click here!

Crossroads by Laurel Hightower is available now at Horror Hub Marketplace.

Book Recommendation – Ghost Mine

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Best Horror Books Best Of Featured Horror Books Indie Horror Reviews

Puzzle Box Horror’s book recommendation of the week is Ghost Mine by Hunter Shea.

Hunter Shea is the product of a misspent childhood watching scary movies, reading forbidden books and wishing Bigfoot would walk past his house. He doesn’t just write about the paranormal – he actively seeks out the things that scare the hell out of people and experiences them for himself. Hunter’s novels can even be found on display at the International Cryptozoology Museum. His video podcast, Monster Men, is one of the most watched horror podcasts in the world. You’ll also find him every week on the Final Guys podcast, available everywhere. He’s a bestselling author of over 25 books, all of them written with the express desire to quicken heartbeats and make spines tingle. Living with his wonderful family and two cats, he’s happy to be close enough to New York City to gobble down Gray’s Papaya hotdogs when the craving hits.

Hunter Shea author photo

Synopsis

Deep in a Wyoming mine, hell awaits. Former cattle driver, Rough Rider and current New York City cop Nat Blackburn is given an offer he can’t refuse by President Teddy Roosevelt. Tales of gold in the abandoned mining town of Hecla, in the Deep Rock Hills, abound. The only problem-those who go seeking their fortune never return. Roosevelt’s own troops are among the missing, and the President wants to know their fate – and find the gold. Along with his constant companion, Teta, a hired gun with a thirst for adventure, Nat travels to a barren land where even animals dare not tread. Along the way, they are joined by a Selma, a fiery and beautiful woman in search of her brother who was swallowed up by Hecla years earlier. What they stumble upon is a hellish battle of underworld forces while being tortured by the ghosts of their checkered pasts. There’s a mystery in Hecla thousands of years old. Solving it could spell the end of the world.

Review

“What do I not see enough of in books? Horror stories full of scares and violence set in the old American West featuring spooky abandoned (or not) gold mines and a climactic fight of Biblical proportions. How do I know I need more of this? Because I just finished Hunter Shea’s Ghost Mine and loved every second of it! If you wanted to make comparisons you could use The DescentBone TomahawkConstantineThe Lone RangerScooby Doo, and Indiana Jones – but then throw them away because none of them do this story justice. Instead you need to stop everything, go get this book, and then buckle up because it’s a hell of a ride. This is my first time reading Hunter Shea and I’m hooked! Excuse me while I go get everything else he has ever written!

Ben (@reading.vicariously)

To read the full review, click here!

Ghost Mine by Hunter Shea is available now at Horror Hub Marketplace

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