Tag Archives: dalena storm

ARC: A Midnight Clear by Sam Hooker, Alcy Leyva, Laura Morrison, Cassondra Windwalker, Dalena Storm, and Seven Jane

Thank you to NetGalley and Black Spot Books for sending me a free advanced reader copy of this book for an honest review. A Midnight Clear debuted November 5th.

I’ve made a concerted effort this year to read more short fiction; the vast majority of my weekly Short Tuesday series focuses on dark genre fiction. So I was intrigued by this short story collection from Black Spot Books, which has a dark holiday focus. Like a lot of short story collections, this one was kind of all over the place. I’m going to give each story a mini review, since there’s only six of them.

“The Dauntless” by Sam Hooker was a strong start to the collection. Great prose, fun details, and a gripping premise: the ensuing legal fallout when a ship of Santa’s elves is sent to deliver Christmas joy to one of Lovecraft’s monsters. If you’re a Lovecraft fan, I could see picking up A Midnight Clear just for this story. 4 stars.

“Tidings of the New Moon” by Alcy Leyva was well-written, but didn’t grip me–more a me thing, I think, than anything else. I’m generally a fan of werewolves in fiction, but this story was maybe a bit too on-the-nose for me in terms of some of the details. Nevertheless, Leyva is clearly a talented writer. 3 stars.

“Movin’ On Up” by Laura Morrison was a fun one for me, since I’m letting a Hell-themed project percolate in my mind right now, and that’s what this was: a trio of three inhabitants of Hell trying to persuade a woman destined for Heaven to venture downstairs instead. I wish this story had been given more room for growth, by at least a few thousand more words; it felt rushed. Yet it was tons of fun overall. 4 stars.

“The Poetry of Snow and Stars” by Cassondra Windwalker was a story that I unfortunately did not get along with. It has an adverb-soaked voice and tons of backstory that put me in mind of those romances you read where the author is trying to catch you up on all the previous characters in the series–I’ve never been a fan of that myself, and that sentiment counts doubly for a short story, where no word should be wasted. The maybe-murder-maybe-not plot didn’t catch me, and the Stanley Hotel setting felt wasted. 2 stars.

“Sleep, Sweet Khors” by Dalena Storm is actually the second work I’ve read by this author in 2019; I was introduced to her by her debut novel, The Hungry Ghost. Like Ghost, this story has a strong mythological spine, this time from the Slavic tradition. I didn’t like the mythology infodump in the middle of the story; I always prefer these kinds of details to get threaded through the narrative. As with Ghost, this author feels like she is currently developing her voice; she has some great ideas, and I’m digging the mythology threads she interweaves with her stories, but I’d like to see a bit more lyricism to her prose. 3 stars.

“Snow Angel” by Seven Jane was a weaker end to the collection, sadly. The prose felt overworked, and much of the narrative was spent in the main character’s head, which got tiresome for me as a reader because the MC was just bemoaning the holiday season the entire time–I didn’t want to spend any more time with her than need be! When we got to the big magical climax, I had a difficult time believing that all this was happening to the main character; was she really special enough to have all this magical attention lavished upon her? So this story and I sadly didn’t mesh. 2 stars.

In sum, this collection was a bit of a bumpy ride, but there were some fun, bright moments. If you’re looking for some Christmas-themed stories and you like your fiction with a dose of darkness, consider giving this a go.

ARC: The Hungry Ghost by Dalena Storm

Thank you to NetGalley and Black Spot Books for sending me a free advanced reader copy of this book for an honest review. The Hungry Ghost debuts June 11th.

This debut novel from Dalena Storm had my immediate attention with its title. Hungry ghosts are paranormal entities in the Buddhist tradition that emerge only in specific circumstances, such as when someone is violently killed—something I’m sure Storm knows, having graduated from Williams College with a BA in Asian Studies. In the picture below, you can see the hungry ghosts’ bulging, distended bellies—the better to eat you with, my dear. 🙂

Anyway, even though there are only a couple mentions of Buddhism in this fast-paced book, nevertheless the reader is presented with a hungry ghost, who drifts upward to the human world from a lower, hellish void and inhabits the body of an American woman in a coma. Spoiler alert that you can probably spot from a mile away: once she inevitably wakes up, the eating commences.

I appreciate the swift pace of the story; at two hundred pages, this is a book on the short side, but there’s nothing wrong with that—in fact, I think there’s a conversation to be had in modern publishing about books being too lengthy for the story they’re seeking to tell. I found it to be a nice palate cleanser—something quick to tear through in a couple hours.

The prose could use some editing, admittedly. There’s a top-down feel to the writing, where we’re told moment to moment what the characters are feeling and thinking, rather than being fed sensory details and internal thoughts via close third POV. I like a straightforward writing style to an extent, but here it grew to be too much for my tastes, to the point where some sentences felt almost utilitarian.

There were also a few leaps of faith in terms of the plot that had me raising my eyebrows, but these were counterbalanced by some genuinely surprising and horror-filled moments where I was fully on board. A couple scenes in particular will probably stick with me a good long while. If you’re looking for a page-turner and are interested in the Buddhist take on ghosts, then maybe give this a shot.


Just a real quick reminder to everyone that Chapter Three of The Gold in the Dark will be posting this Sunday at 11 AM EST! All right, that’s all, folks. ❤