I am quickly becoming obsessed with the Audible Original Collections. I read The Forward Collection last year, and this year I’ve already devoured The Trespass Collection and The Black Stars Collection. But this one? Short horror? This is my dream. They’re available in ebook and audio via Kindle Unlimited, which is a great deal for lots of terrifying short fiction. If you’d like to sign up for Kindle Unlimited, my link is here and at the bottom of this review. This collection is a horrifying look at the things that hide in the shadows.
Hannah-Beast by Jennifer McMahon:
About the book: Thirty-four years ago, on October 31, poor Hannah Talbott took part in a scavenger hunt gone violently wrong. The mean girls made sure of it. To this day, for a haunted local mother, the most unsettling Halloween costume of all is an urban legend they call Hannah-Beast. It’s a reminder of the past she can’t forget. Especially tonight when it’s come back, so close to home.
My review: I loved this horrible story. My favourite kind of horror is when someone’s past comes back to bite them, and the dual timelines in this novella worked really well. We saw present-day Amanda, preparing for Halloween and trying to make sure her daughter still gets her father’s Halloween traditions. We also saw Amanda as a child, on the night that the Hannah-Beast legend was born. This story really drew out the horrors of humanity, the things people can do and the secrets they can keep, with a sharp as a whip ending that made my heart and my stomach lurch.
Rating: 5 stars
The Sleep Tight Motel by Lisa Unger:
About the book: Eve has a fake ID, a .38, and a violent lover receding in the rearview mirror. He’ll never find her at the isolated motel, and its kindly manager is happy to ease her fears. But if Eve is the only guest, whom does she keep hearing on the other side of the wall? Eve won’t get a good night’s rest until she finds out.
My review: This was SO unnerving. I felt like I was being chased, somehow. I did not even slightly predict the ending, and was left waiting breathlessly (and stressfully) to find out what would happen. The manipulation and abuse made my skin crawl and I loved the tension that this book managed to create. It was a properly unnerving horror and perfectly paced for its short page count.
Rating: 5 stars
There’s a Giant Trapdoor Spider Under Your Bed by Edgar Cantero:
About the book: It’s bad enough that its venom-dripping chelicerae can slice through flesh like warm butter. Worse? It’s right there under the bunk. It’s a fact now. To make it through the night, the children must obey the rules: don’t get out of bed, stay out of the shadows, and don’t wake the beast. But as the threats multiply, so do the rules of survival. And with the safety of dawn still hours away, the fun is just beginning.
My review: This was like listening to a Goosebumps book, if Goosebumps books felt the compulsive need to reference Harry Potter in every third sentence. Not particularly scary, and not entertaining enough to make up for the repeated references – even if it wasn’t Harry Potter it was referencing, it was overdone. The idea that kids could bring their imaginations into reality and would have to conquer them is interesting, but I didn’t have fun with this one. It was very tonally different from the others in the collection.
Rating: 1 star
Miao Dao by Joyce Carol Oates:
About the book: Bad things have been happening since Mia began to mature. Her dad left. Boys at school can’t keep their hands to themselves. A lecherous stepfather has moved in. Her only refuge is an abandoned lot on her suburban cul-de-sac, crawling with feral felines—one of which follows Mia home. Ghostly white and affectionate, she is Mia’s new companion and—as Mia’s tormenters will soon discover—her fierce protector.
My review: This story was wild. It was longer than most of the other Audible Original Stories I’ve read, and it started off a little slow. When it picked up, though, it picked the hell up. To start with, this was a quiet story of a girl going through puberty and dealing with her father leaving. She took solace in the feral cats nearby as her stepfather turned from doting to grooming, and as one of the kittens followed her home, they brought her strength too. This was a slow and creepy kind of story, and seeing everything from Mia’s perspective only made it more so as our unreliable narrator showed us what she was seeing as her whole world changed. By the end, I was rooting for Mia and Miao Dao and the latter’s vicious protectiveness.
Rating: 4 stars
The Tangled Woods by Emily Raboteau:
About the book: Poison-tongued film critic Reginald Wright is known for his creative insults and intolerance for the garbage culture, insufferable rudeness, and thoughtless racism of predictably common people. Now, against his better judgment, and with a marriage in crisis, he’s attempting a getaway in the Poconos that quickly fulfills his every low expectation. In fact, it’s becoming a nightmare. And that’s just what Reginald needs to wake up.
My review: So tired of books referencing Harry Potter. Also pretty tired of reading about middle-aged men who cheat on their wives and talk about how much their lives suck. The only time that I thought this book was getting interesting – it was a dream. It’s literally just an hour and ten minutes of Reginald whining about everything in his life and doing nothing about it. A horror book isn’t really working for me if I’m just waiting impatiently for him to get wrecked. He brought his own comeuppance on himself and deserved worse than he got.
Rating: 1 star
The Remedy by Adam Haslett:
About the book: After years of traditional treatments and therapies, Derrick still suffers from pain ineluctable enough that it has become his identity. Then he hears of an exclusive, very private New York clinic that promises relief. It comes highly recommended by a friend. The multisession remedy unfolds as a sensorial wonder that’s so illuminating it’s enough to bring tears to Derrick’s eyes. It’s all working so well. So unexpectedly well.
My review: This was not what I was expecting. The ending was a bit much for me, and it felt more psychological thriller than real horror – I couldn’t really see this as fitting the idea of something in the shadows – but it was an interesting short read. It definitely would have seemed weaker if it was any longer, and it lacked a bit of explanation about the early sessions of the remedy. The final reveal didn’t really explain enough for me. But the writing was well done and easy to listen to.
Rating: 3 stars
Oak Avenue by Brandi Reeds:
About the book: While renovating her Victorian home, Ana Clementine finds an ornate door buried under forty years of earth. Once she restores it to the attic, she starts hearing whispers, her loving husband becomes a stranger, and her baby daughter learns a chilling new word. Maybe Ana has unlocked the house’s secrets. Or maybe she’s becoming just a little unhinged herself.
My review: I absolutely love freaky haunted house stories, and this one was spectacular. The way that it unfolds had me on the edge of my seat. The slow, creeping progression of the things Ana is experiencing is fantastic and really chilling and I absolutely loved the jolt of fear the ending gave me. I would absolutely read a whole length novel about the house on Oak Avenue, without hesitation, and I’ll be looking for more of Brandi Reeds’ horror in future.
Rating: 5 stars
If you’re interested in trying any of the above, I recommend using this affiliate link for a kindle unlimited trial! If you do, you can get the whole collection for free in ebook and audio, which is how I listened to all of them.