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Gutted: Beautiful Horror Stories

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From Bram Stoker Award-nominated publisher, Crystal Lake Publishing, and the editing duo who brought you the best-selling and critically acclaimed small-town Lovecraftian horror anthology Shadows Over Main Street, comes Gutted: Beautiful Horror Stories—a disturbing journey into the beauty that rests inside the very heart of darkness. Awe meets ache. Terror becomes transcen From Bram Stoker Award-nominated publisher, Crystal Lake Publishing, and the editing duo who brought you the best-selling and critically acclaimed small-town Lovecraftian horror anthology Shadows Over Main Street, comes Gutted: Beautiful Horror Stories—a disturbing journey into the beauty that rests inside the very heart of darkness. Awe meets ache. Terror becomes transcendence. Regret gives way to rebirth. Fifteen short stories and one poem span nearly every twisted corner of the horror and dark fiction genres: A woman experiences an emotional reckoning inside a haunted house. A father sees his daughter rescued after a cold case is solved, only to learn the tragic limits of his love. A man awakens a vengeful spirit and learns the terrible price of settling scores. A boy comes of age into awareness of a secret universe of Lovecraftian scale. A young woman confronts the deathly price of existence inside a German concentration camp during the Holocaust. And much, much more… Gutted: Beautiful Horror Stories features the most celebrated voices in dark fiction, as well as a number of exciting, new talents, including: Clive Barker, Neil Gaiman, Ramsey Campbell, Paul Tremblay, John F.D. Taff, Lisa Mannetti, Damien Angelica Walters, Josh Malerman, Christopher Coake, Mercedes M. Yardley, Brian Kirk, Stephanie M. Wytovich, Amanda Gowin, Richard Thomas, Maria Alexander and Kevin Lucia. With a foreword from Cemetery Dance magazine founder Richard Chizmar.


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From Bram Stoker Award-nominated publisher, Crystal Lake Publishing, and the editing duo who brought you the best-selling and critically acclaimed small-town Lovecraftian horror anthology Shadows Over Main Street, comes Gutted: Beautiful Horror Stories—a disturbing journey into the beauty that rests inside the very heart of darkness. Awe meets ache. Terror becomes transcen From Bram Stoker Award-nominated publisher, Crystal Lake Publishing, and the editing duo who brought you the best-selling and critically acclaimed small-town Lovecraftian horror anthology Shadows Over Main Street, comes Gutted: Beautiful Horror Stories—a disturbing journey into the beauty that rests inside the very heart of darkness. Awe meets ache. Terror becomes transcendence. Regret gives way to rebirth. Fifteen short stories and one poem span nearly every twisted corner of the horror and dark fiction genres: A woman experiences an emotional reckoning inside a haunted house. A father sees his daughter rescued after a cold case is solved, only to learn the tragic limits of his love. A man awakens a vengeful spirit and learns the terrible price of settling scores. A boy comes of age into awareness of a secret universe of Lovecraftian scale. A young woman confronts the deathly price of existence inside a German concentration camp during the Holocaust. And much, much more… Gutted: Beautiful Horror Stories features the most celebrated voices in dark fiction, as well as a number of exciting, new talents, including: Clive Barker, Neil Gaiman, Ramsey Campbell, Paul Tremblay, John F.D. Taff, Lisa Mannetti, Damien Angelica Walters, Josh Malerman, Christopher Coake, Mercedes M. Yardley, Brian Kirk, Stephanie M. Wytovich, Amanda Gowin, Richard Thomas, Maria Alexander and Kevin Lucia. With a foreword from Cemetery Dance magazine founder Richard Chizmar.

30 review for Gutted: Beautiful Horror Stories

  1. 4 out of 5

    Bob Milne

    Already recognized as a successful indie publisher, with a Bram Stoker Award nomination and a slew of well-reviewed titles over the past few years, Crystal Lake has really stepped up their game with Gutted: Beautiful Horror Stories. While there were a few entries I didn't care for, it was more a matter of personal taste/triggers than literary quality. Doug Murano & D. Alexander Ward have pulled together an impressive mix of authors here, and that diversity is big part of what makes it such an Already recognized as a successful indie publisher, with a Bram Stoker Award nomination and a slew of well-reviewed titles over the past few years, Crystal Lake has really stepped up their game with Gutted: Beautiful Horror Stories. While there were a few entries I didn't care for, it was more a matter of personal taste/triggers than literary quality. Doug Murano & D. Alexander Ward have pulled together an impressive mix of authors here, and that diversity is big part of what makes it such an interesting read. I won't dwell on those that didn't work for me - instead, I'll just share a few words on what I felt to be the standout pieces. “Picking Splinters from a Sex Slave” by Brian Kirk really sets the tone for this collection. It's one of the darkest, saddest stories I have ever read, with the father's inappropriate humor putting a perfect edge on the drama. “Arbeit Macht Frei” was another dark tale, this time rooted in the real life horrors of a Nazi concentration camp, with Lisa Mannetti sharing a story of teenage selfishness and absolutely rotten timing. “Water Thy Bones” by Mercedes M. Yardley was one of the high points of the collection, an odd sort of tale that explores the beautiful side of horror - which, as it turns out, is bone deep (not skin deep). It wasn't only an interesting story, but and interestingly told story. “A Haunted House is a Wheel Upon Which Some Are Broken” initially seemed misplaced in the collection, being a dark sort of choose your own adventure tale, but as each choice exposes a different room and a different history, Paul Tremblay proves himself a clever addition. “Coming to Grief” was a difficult story to gauge. As a story on its own, I appreciated it's take on childhood fears and the adult grieving process it, but knowing that it was written by Clive Barker created expectations to which it could not live up. “Cards for His Spokes, Coins for His Fare” felt very much like a Stephen King or John Saul tale, with John F.D. Taff really distinguishing himself. It's a subtle story that takes a while to develop, but I really liked where it ended up. “The Place of Revelation” by Ramsey Campbell closes the collection on a high note, with the story of a young boy and his ability to see things that feels like a vintage Campbell tale. It has plot, character, atmosphere, and more. As the title says, Gutted really is a collection of Beautiful Horror Stories that isn't afraid to look for light in the strangest of places, even as it embraces the appeal of the darkness. Originally reviewed at Beauty in Ruins Disclaimer: I received a complimentary ARC of this title from the publisher in exchange for review consideration. This does not in any way affect the honesty or sincerity of my review.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Mindi

    This is quite possibly one of the best horror anthologies I've ever read. The book has some big names contributing, but all of the stories are absolutely stellar. I also appreciate that there are a number of women who are included in this anthology, and I was excited to finally read a story from some folks that I hadn't read before. Most of the names are familiar, I just had yet to get around to reading everyone. GUTTED: BEAUTIFUL HORROR STORIES is such a perfect title. All of these tales have a This is quite possibly one of the best horror anthologies I've ever read. The book has some big names contributing, but all of the stories are absolutely stellar. I also appreciate that there are a number of women who are included in this anthology, and I was excited to finally read a story from some folks that I hadn't read before. Most of the names are familiar, I just had yet to get around to reading everyone. GUTTED: BEAUTIFUL HORROR STORIES is such a perfect title. All of these tales have a certain macabre beauty, and I loved reading how each author interpreted the beauty in horror. The anthology starts with a poem by Stephanie M. Wytovich that I adore. The Morning After was Filled With Bone is the perfect way to start this book, and I can't wait to read more from Wytovich now. Picking Splinters From a Sex Slave by Brian Kirk goes to some really, really dark places. The author received a number of very angry reviews and even a death threat, but I think all of those people are missing the point. Yes, the subject matter of this story is disturbing, but ultimately the protagonist is so desperate that he resorts to something that no person can even fathom doing. But he does it because of love and desperation, and no one can truly say what they would do unless they were actually in that situation. Equally hard to read is Lisa Mannetti's story Arbeit Macht Frei. Holocaust stories have always been hard for me to read, especially now because my husband's family is Jewish. It wasn't until I met him and I learned more about the Jewish faith and actually loved someone who would have been sent to the camps had he been alive and in Europe at the time, that made them even more devastating. Those stories are much closer to home now. Thankfully his family was out of Europe before the war, but I always think about how not everyone was so lucky. I'm obsessed with Mercedes M. Yardley's story. Water Thy Bones is a about physical beauty, and a beautiful woman who is obsessed with being more beautiful on the inside. It makes you think about society's overall standards on beauty, and how we need to perhaps adjust our collective opinions. This story is beautiful and metal all at once, and it takes a very unexpected turn at the end. A Haunted House is a Wheel Upon Which Some are Broken is Paul Tremblay's homage to the Choose Your Own Adventure novels I read as a kid. Fiona is about to enter a haunted house, and the reader has the power to guide her through the rooms or just leave altogether. I decided to explore the house, and found a very melancholy story that I really enjoyed. On the Other Side of the Door, Everything Changesby Damien Angelica Walters is a heartbreaking story that resonated with me. A mother and a daughter have only a door between them, but it may as well be a mile. Hannah can't talk to anyone about what she's going through, and her mother has no idea. So she leaves her door shut and gives her privacy. Like many parents, she doesn't know that privacy is the exact opposite of what Hannah needs. I could probably discuss every single story in this anthology, but I'm just going to finish this review by discussing my favorite story. Cards For His Spokes, Coins For His Fare by John F.D. Taff is like a punch to the gut. Twelve-year-old Scott gets a brand new ten-speed bike from his parents one day. He's so excited about finally having an "adult bike" that he can barely listen to his parents warning him not to go too far and how to ride the bike safely. Scott finally feels free. With some spending money in his pocket he decides to ride to the nearby strip mall to pick up some candy and comics, but most importantly to show of his new bike. Except Scott's newfound freedom makes him greedy for even more. And that little voice inside his head that tells him not to push his luck is silenced by that freedom. These are just some of the stories in this anthology that stuck with me. The whole book is fantastic, and definitely worth every horror lover's time. I highly recommend this one.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Maxine Marsh

    A very nice selection of stories, most of which are very well done with the usual couple of duds that didn't work for me. Another treat is the artwork that accompanies the first page of each story, it was very impressive.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Duane

    I was fortunate enough to be advanced a copy of this book prior to publication. And I mean fortunate. This book is destined to generate strong sales, firstly on the strength of the names involved (Neil Gaiman, Clive Barker, Ramsey Campbell), and then on the strength of the poem and stories included. Stephanie M. Wytovich leads off with an effective piece of verse, which leads into what I think is the best story in the book: Brian Kirk's "Picking Splinters From a Sex Slave." That story illustrates I was fortunate enough to be advanced a copy of this book prior to publication. And I mean fortunate. This book is destined to generate strong sales, firstly on the strength of the names involved (Neil Gaiman, Clive Barker, Ramsey Campbell), and then on the strength of the poem and stories included. Stephanie M. Wytovich leads off with an effective piece of verse, which leads into what I think is the best story in the book: Brian Kirk's "Picking Splinters From a Sex Slave." That story illustrates what lengths a person might go to to accomodate a loved one, in exquisite detail. The actual tableau is revolting, but the internal logic is inescapable. The tone is perfect. "Splinters" is followed by Lisa Mannetti and then Neil Gaiman. Both stories are good -- not pedestrian, but are overshadowed by the excellence of Kirk's piece. Christopher Cooke's "Dominion" levels up one from those and leads into a tetralogy of really effective horror tales by Mercedes M. Yardley, Paul Tremblay, Damien Angelica Walters, and Richard Thomas, before Clive Barker takes center stage with his "Coming To Grief". I'm not going to say that this story is as good as "classic Barker" pieces like "In the Hills, the Cities", but it is a Barker story, and has a certain resonance. The second-best story, John F.D. Taff's "Cards for His Spokes, Coins for His Fare", which has distinct Kingian undertones, is set in the early 70s of my own childhood and morphs into a fairly classic ghost yarn. Cheers for the setting and characters. Amanda Gowin contributes a decent piece, "Cellar's Dog", with a good portrait of po' white trash, and Kevin Lucia adds "When We All Met at the Ofrenda", which again hits me especially, as I live in the Southwest and am familiar with the lore that contributes to the setting and setup. That's followed by good pieces from Maria Alexander and Josh Malerman, before the capstone, Ramsey Campbell's "The Place of Revelation", which does not disappoint. Strong, strong, strong. Pieces that find beauty in grotesquerie, love amid the ruins, that entice you with beauty and magic and then hang you on a meathook, still wanting more. Gutted will have out your liver and lights in an instant, after you give your heart willingly. An easy five stars.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Belinda Lewis

    I think that this is the best multi-contributor horror anthology I have ever read (although yes, possibly the stories aren't all strictly speaking horror). Generally I find anthologies have a couple of amazing stories, a bunch of good stories and a sprinkling of blah stories. This book is about 80% amazing and 20% really good. The Problem with Susan, a dark reimagining of what happens to Susan after Narnia, is particularly both beautiful and horrifying.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Deborah Sheldon

    A gorgeous collection of suspenseful, heartfelt and (occasionally) gut-wrenching stories. A couple of entries brought me to tears. Added bonuses are the wonderful artwork that accompanies each story, and the evocative cover. Recommended for lovers of not just horror, but well-written literature.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Angela Crawford

    I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This is in no way reflected in my opinion of this anthology. Gutted: Beautiful Horror Stories is fantastic! Most multi-author collections have some stories that I love and some that are just ok, but Gutted is filled with wonderful stories. The tales found here are touching and horrific, heartbreaking and full of hope. None of them are disappointing. A few of my favorites are: The Problem of Susan by Neil Gaiman — A very dark twist on I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This is in no way reflected in my opinion of this anthology. Gutted: Beautiful Horror Stories is fantastic! Most multi-author collections have some stories that I love and some that are just ok, but Gutted is filled with wonderful stories. The tales found here are touching and horrific, heartbreaking and full of hope. None of them are disappointing. A few of my favorites are: The Problem of Susan by Neil Gaiman — A very dark twist on a beloved children's story. Dominion by Christopher Coake — A girl gets help from the other side. Great ghost story! Water Thy Bones by Mercedes M. Yardley — This is a disturbing and yet somehow beautiful tale of love and death. On the Other Side of the Door, Everything Changes by Damien Angelica Walters — A truly heart-wrenching story about bullying and it's consequences. This one was hard to read through my tears. Repent by Richard Thomas — A father is willing to make any sacrifice to save his son. Cards for His Spokes, Coins for His Fare by John F.D. Taff — This one broke my heart! Cellar’s Dog by Amanda Gowin — Revenge doggy style. When We All Meet at the Ofrenda by Kevin Lucia — A widower brings his family together for Día de Muertos. Touched my heart. Hey, Little Sister by Maria Alexander — A man seeks revenge for his sister with unintended consequences. Horror fans will find much to love in this superbly written anthology. A highly recommended 5 star read.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Thomas Joyce

    What a wonderful collection. Included are some of the best short stories I have ever read. Every story showcases each author's impressive ability to display both beauty and horror from so many angles. I loved more than a few of them, but I thoroughly enjoyed every single one. And it isn't often that I can say that about a multi-author collection. Favourites include 'On The Other Side of the Door, Everything Changes' by Damien Angelica Walters and 'Cards For His Spokes, Coins For His Fare' by John What a wonderful collection. Included are some of the best short stories I have ever read. Every story showcases each author's impressive ability to display both beauty and horror from so many angles. I loved more than a few of them, but I thoroughly enjoyed every single one. And it isn't often that I can say that about a multi-author collection. Favourites include 'On The Other Side of the Door, Everything Changes' by Damien Angelica Walters and 'Cards For His Spokes, Coins For His Fare' by John F.D. Taff. These two stories were really moving. Brian Kirk's 'Picking Splinters From A Sex Slave', Mercedes M. Yardley's 'Water Thy Bones', and 'Repent' by Richard Thomas were notably dark tales. But I enjoyed every single story. And, given the context of the story and the style in which it is written, 'Hey, Little Sister' by Maria Alexander may have the best last line ever! But I won't spoil it for you. Just check it out! You won't be disappointed.

  9. 5 out of 5

    L.F. Falconer

    An excellent collection of the dark kind! Highly recommended for the horror aficionado.

  10. 5 out of 5

    David Brian

    I scored each story individually and then added and divided to give an average rating of 3.56 rounded up to 4 stars. Reading Gutted turned out to be a bit of a strange affair. Even though a majority of the stories in this collection are technically on point, the tone of most tends towards grim and dull rather than entertaining horror (beautiful or otherwise). Stories of this nature aren't necessarily a problem in themselves, but it is fair to say that a collection where the majority of content fai I scored each story individually and then added and divided to give an average rating of 3.56 rounded up to 4 stars. Reading Gutted turned out to be a bit of a strange affair. Even though a majority of the stories in this collection are technically on point, the tone of most tends towards grim and dull rather than entertaining horror (beautiful or otherwise). Stories of this nature aren't necessarily a problem in themselves, but it is fair to say that a collection where the majority of content fails to provide much in the way of entertainment, proved (for myself at least) to be hard going. The standout tales were Arbeit Macht Frei by Lisa Mannetti, Hey, Little Sister by Maria Alexander, Cellar's Dog by Amanda Gowin, and the superb Coming to Grief by Clive Barker. I'd also give a big shout out to the stories by John Taff, Kevin Lucia, and Damien Angelica Walters. All in all, if you are looking for some fun light reading down on the beach this summer, then you'll probably want to give Gutted a miss. But if you are looking for something to pick up once in a while, when your choice of fancy turns to grim-dark, then this might be the collection for you.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Heidi Ward

    I'd love to write a really thorough review, but that's always difficult when it comes to an anthology. Overall, the stories were of high quality, though as is also the case with most anthologies not all of them were up my alley. I'll settle for highlighting a few stories that really worked for me. 1) Clive Barker's "Coming to Grief" may be the most gut-wrenching, yet eerily calm, portrayal of bereavement I've read. This story of a middle-aged woman coming to terms with her mother's death is profo I'd love to write a really thorough review, but that's always difficult when it comes to an anthology. Overall, the stories were of high quality, though as is also the case with most anthologies not all of them were up my alley. I'll settle for highlighting a few stories that really worked for me. 1) Clive Barker's "Coming to Grief" may be the most gut-wrenching, yet eerily calm, portrayal of bereavement I've read. This story of a middle-aged woman coming to terms with her mother's death is profoundly unsettling because it magnifies and foreshadows (or reminds us of), our own fear and guilt around the death of a loved one. (Is it wrong if I feel nothing? If it's a relief? If there's just a hole?) Here, Barker quietly defines death as "an unknowable nothing that was the space where life used to be," and that void is the real horror. Barker was an early favorite of mine -- "Hellraiser" was my first big screen horror movie, and the next day I went looking for The Books of Blood -- but I haven't read him in a long time. Nice to know he can still deliver a gut punch, especially of the subtler emotional kind. 2) "The One You Live With" by Josh Malerman is the story of a mother's warning becoming prophecy, a story which strikes me as uncannily perceptive about what it means to hide your true face, to cope with the eerie chasms that define and separate our various masks. She tells her young daughter that " . . . the older you get, the more the split is gonna grow, breaking up the two yous, until you hardly recognize the you you are when you're out of the house and the you you are when you're not. I think it's the best thing a person can do is to try and keep those two yous as close together as they can." While her warning's effects on her daughter are less salubrious than hoped, I personally found it to be excellent advice for staying sane-ish. 3) "Picking Splinters from a Sex Slave," by Brian Kirk, feels like reading The Girl Next Door, only with punchlines. This deeply disturbing story of a man whose missing-presumed-dead daughter is returned to him after several years of horrific torture at the hands of her captor is only endurable thanks to Kirk's deft use of pitch-black humor . . . but it treads a very sick line. Other high points are Maria Alexander's "Hey, Little Sister," a family revenge tale; Paul Tremblay's literary Mobius strip "A Haunted House is a Wheel upon Which Some are Broken"; "On the Other Side of the Door, Everything Changes," Damien Angelica Walters' take on the damage done in teen bullying; and "When We All Meet at the Ofrenda," Kevin Lucia's weird little tale of one man's strategy for keeping his beloved family together. All told, a solid 4.5. Nicely done, Mr. Murano.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Bryan Nowak

    I am a firm believer in the usefulness of horror. People who equate horror with gore completely miss the point. Horror can be gory, but it can be funny, intellectual, attractive, and it can communicate the depths of love that even a love story cannot truly reach. It is the depths of love where you’ll find the treasure that is, "Gutted". "Gutted" is a horror anthology of many different authors and edited by Doug Murano and D. Alexander Ward. My personal favorite stories were “The Morning After was I am a firm believer in the usefulness of horror. People who equate horror with gore completely miss the point. Horror can be gory, but it can be funny, intellectual, attractive, and it can communicate the depths of love that even a love story cannot truly reach. It is the depths of love where you’ll find the treasure that is, "Gutted". "Gutted" is a horror anthology of many different authors and edited by Doug Murano and D. Alexander Ward. My personal favorite stories were “The Morning After was Filled with Bone”, by Stephanie M. Wytovich and “Picking Splinters from a Sex Slave”, by Brian Kirk. Both stories are horror stories in their own right, but also plunge the depths of love to an extend that I can’t even begin to describe. What makes "Gutted" work is how the stories reach out and touch the reader. They don’t ask you to excuse the content of the message, just read and take it in. That’s why these stories touched me. They laid out before me, naked to the world and just let me read them without pretense. I got the chance to just accept the messages for what they are. I normally like to try and write longer reviews, but I have nothing else to say besides, well done! Recently I was asked to list out my 13 top horror books of all time. "Gutted" made my list. Not because of the usual reasons, but because it really does take horror and turn it on its head. It proves that horror is at its best when it reflects a deeper meaning. -Bryan the Writer

  13. 5 out of 5

    The Hissing

    Fabulous fabulous book! Stories that can make you cry, hurt, get under your skin, burrow deep inside and haunt you, bringing forth dark memories... Its all there

  14. 5 out of 5

    Eden Royce

    I was excited to read this upcoming release from Crystal Lake Publishing, Gutted: Beautiful Horror Stories. I was also fortunate to get an advanced reading copy of the anthology. Crystal Lake is making quite a name for itself in the horror and dark fiction categories since their opening in 2012. This year Crystal Lake walked away with two Bram Stoker Awards at Stoker Con in Las Vegas, one for Mercedes Murdock Yardley’s Little Dead Red and Alessandro Manzetti’s Eden Underground. One of the authors I was excited to read this upcoming release from Crystal Lake Publishing, Gutted: Beautiful Horror Stories. I was also fortunate to get an advanced reading copy of the anthology. Crystal Lake is making quite a name for itself in the horror and dark fiction categories since their opening in 2012. This year Crystal Lake walked away with two Bram Stoker Awards at Stoker Con in Las Vegas, one for Mercedes Murdock Yardley’s Little Dead Red and Alessandro Manzetti’s Eden Underground. One of the authors in Gutted, Paul Tremblay, also won a Bram Stoker Award at the event, and received a shout out from horror giant Stephen King on Twitter. King isn’t the only giant around these parts. Gutted also features stories by Clive Barker, Neil Gaiman, and Ramsey Campbell. Gutted also has its share of stunning interior artwork for each story and a stunning cover that speak directly to what you’ll find between these pages—withered loveliness faced with brutal decay. Stephanie M. Wytovich’s prose poem “The Morning After Was Filled With Bone” set the tone of beauty in the grotesque, followed by one of the strongest stories in the collection, Picking Splinters from a Sex Slave by Brian Kirk. Kirk’s portrayal of a father desperate to help his daughter is at once alarming and moving, leaving you with a lingering disquiet. Neil Gaiman’s story presents us with the problem in one of C.S. Lewis’ most well-known book series, leaving me with an image of the lion and the witch that I will never forget. Mercedes M. Yardley’s “Water Thy Bones” shows the strong connection to the theme of this anthology and to Wytovich’s prose poem with its theme of the beauty, the clean purity of bone, prominent under paper-thin skin. It also echoes true love, acceptance of self and of a becoming that is painful, but essential. The story’s ending felt reverent, enduring and I got a freakish sensation that this was a truly beautiful ending. The next story is Paul Tremblay’s Choose Your Own Adventure style story, “Arrival”. I loved the CYOA books as a kid and Tremblay’s version doesn’t disappoint. Each decision the reader is presented with takes you to a different part of the house that the protagonist will explore. Once inside each room, hidden among description and a touch of character’s history is a ghost of a puzzle piece. I recommend visiting each room and not trying to opt out and leave the house. “Changes” by Damien Angelica Walters portrays the tragedy that can befall a relationship when neither party wants to share their pain with the other. In this case, the relationship is between mother and daughter. Each character’s point of view is expressed with empathy and reading it, I knew if one of them had been a bit braver—a bit more open—the story could have ended differently. The real fear here is of rejection by someone you love when all others have already done so. It’s fear of reprimand and the determination to maintain a strong façade in front of everyone. Walters’ story was horrific, and all too probable. If I had not read the Table of Contents first, I would not have guessed that “Coming to Grief” was a Clive Barker tale. It wasn’t the story you typically see transformed to film, rather upon rereading, it reminded me of “Human Remains”, one of the stories in Barker’s Books of Blood Volume Three. I was drawn in by Kevin Lucia’s “When We All Meet at the Ofrenda” as it was full of familiar imagery and folklore. What is an ofrenda? It’s the objects put on a ritual altar, typically used in Dia de los Muertos celebrations. The protagonist, I felt for him too, being separated from his love. But not for long… “Hey, Little Sister” by Maria Alexander caught my attention as well. To make things up to his beloved sister, a man gives into a bout of needful revenge. Afterward, he has to make an afterlife-ending choice. I reached out to the owner of Crystal Lake Publishing, Joe Mynhardt and asked how he managed to get the likes of Gaiman and Barker in his anthology. He said that it was thanks to the editors of Gutted who had a contact with someone close to Barker. (Lucky!) And well, they reached out to Gaiman’s agent and asked. All of the stories in this anthology have a beauty, whether it is in language or tone or in finessing a hard-hitting theme to disarm the reader. It’s worth picking up this collection.

  15. 4 out of 5

    James Sabata

    It’s one thing to expect a book to sell well when it features short stories by the likes of Neil Gaiman, Clive Barker, and Ramsey Campbell. It is another when every story in the book is a solid look at horror with some sort of light still shining at the end of it. Such is the case with Gutted: Beautiful Horror Stories. We’ve grown accustomed to horror that pulls us into the depths and leaves us there, but this compilation shows that even at the worst times, humans instinctively cling to any ray It’s one thing to expect a book to sell well when it features short stories by the likes of Neil Gaiman, Clive Barker, and Ramsey Campbell. It is another when every story in the book is a solid look at horror with some sort of light still shining at the end of it. Such is the case with Gutted: Beautiful Horror Stories. We’ve grown accustomed to horror that pulls us into the depths and leaves us there, but this compilation shows that even at the worst times, humans instinctively cling to any ray of hope they can find. While it may not be the hope they thought they were looking for, sometimes, it’s still enough. Stephanie M. Wytovich sets the tone for the anthology with her poem, “The Morning After Was Filled with Bone.” But the next story, Brian Kirk’s “Picking Splinters from A Sex Slave” kicked me upside the head, leaving me truly considering the lengths I would travel to help my own daughter. Lisa Mannetti’s story of a Nazi concentration camp follows this trend, forcing the reader to understand how far others would go to help people they barely know. Neil Gaiman’s contribution to this anthology, “The Problem with Susan” ripped apart a chunk of my childhood. Each story in this anthology comes at you full steam. Christopher Coake’s “Dominion” and Mercedes M. Yardley’s “Water Thy Bones” are each a solid addition. I found myself thinking about them hours after I’d finished them. Paul Tremblay’s “A Haunted House is a Wheel Upon Which Some Are Broken,” however, took it to another level. I don’t want to spoil it, but to say this is the story I had the most fun reading is a very true statement, as messed up as that sounds in a review of a horror book. It’s a fantastic romp through a haunted house set to a tone that brought back my childhood. Trust me when I tell you not to leave the house until you’ve been in every room. Damien Angelica Walters brings us an all too real look at the kind of life teenagers face today in “On the Other Side of the Door, Everything Changes.” The rejection that character faces from the ones she needs the most follow the rejection she’s already endured. If that’s not horror, I don’t know what is. Richard Thomas offers “Repent” a story about how everyday life is as rigged as a carnival game. Horror Master Clive Barker hits us with his story “Coming to Grief,” in which a young woman returns to her hometown for her mother’s funeral. She finds that the thing that she feared the most as a child is now disappointingly safe, having no idea that it’s more unstable than she believes. My favorite story in the collection, John F.D. Taff’s, “Cards for his Spokes, Coins for his Fare,” brought back memories of my childhood, riding my bike where I wasn’t supposed to. True beauty lies in the fog in that house. “Cellar’s Dog” by Amanda Gowin, tells the tale of a woman who finds beauty in places she would have never imagined. It might be fleeting, but it changes her life forever. Kevin Lucia’s “When We All Meet at the Ofrenda” made me truly care about the protagonist and continued that theme I liked at the beginning of what we’d do for our loved ones. “Hey, Little Sister” by Maria Alexander continued that with a character seeking revenge to make things up to his beloved sister. Josh Malerman is quickly becoming one of my favorite writers. His story, “The One You Live With” only increased that love. If there is one story that really stuck with me from this book, this is it. It was the second one I read (I’m not afraid to admit I didn’t read them in order) and I’m still thinking about the ramifications of what I read ten days later. Ramsey Campbell closes the book with his tale, “A Place of Revelation.” It’s a tale of a boy with an ability to see things he never asked to see. Overall, this book is everything I wanted it to be and so much more. I can’t get over the amazing interior art work, created by Luke Spooner, either. This is a quality book from cover to cover. If this team keeps cranking out anthologies at this level, I see nothing but great things happening for them. Highly recommended. 5/5

  16. 5 out of 5

    Nerine Dorman

    Gutted: Beautiful Horror Stories, edited by Doug Murano and D Alexander Ward, most certainly gave me a little of everything to enjoy, though there were a fair number that I felt weren't necessarily horror so much as simply dark fiction. The mood is apt to change – some tales are quite literary and magical, while others give more of that visceral gut punch one expects from a good horror tale. While I'm not going to go into exhaustive detail with every story, I will highlight those that stood out Gutted: Beautiful Horror Stories, edited by Doug Murano and D Alexander Ward, most certainly gave me a little of everything to enjoy, though there were a fair number that I felt weren't necessarily horror so much as simply dark fiction. The mood is apt to change – some tales are quite literary and magical, while others give more of that visceral gut punch one expects from a good horror tale. While I'm not going to go into exhaustive detail with every story, I will highlight those that stood out for me. "Arbeit Macht Frei" by Lisa Mannetti isn't a story I'd necessarily classify as horror in the traditional sense – though I feel it delves deeper into the horror that we ourselves are capable of rather. Our narrator is a Jew in a death camp with her mother, acting as a nurse's aide. And it's how she copes, atones for betraying her mother even for fear of repercussions. "Water Thy Bones" by Mercedes M Yardley is a glorious riot of gore – as a victim and killer fall in love and express their devotion in the act of dismemberment. It's not so much that the trope is new – but the writing is lush. Something that I'd not expected to find in an anthology was a choose-your-own-adventure style story. "A Haunted House is a Wheel Upon Which Some are Broken by Paul Tremblay offers the suggestion that the true horror of the story lies in the way that it loops – you, as reader, are incapable of escaping. "Repent" by Richard Thomas is darkly rich... A corrupt cop makes a deal with the devil to save his son from cancer. The price is his surrender to the corruption in order for the son to live and for him to be expunged from their lives forever. What I liked about this was the ambiguity. Unsure whether we're dealing with madness or supernatural agents. There is a reason why Clive Barker is considered a master of this genre (and I'd argue that he crosses genres effortlessly and subverts them at will). "Coming to Grief" is lyrical, evocative. Miriam's mom has died, and she returns to pack up her home. As the title suggests, this is all about facing death personified in the Bogey on the walk above the quarry. I love the ambiguity – you're never sure whether the Bogey is real or an imagined personification of grief. As with all anthologies, I suspect different readers will like stories for their own reasons. Not all the tales collected here impacted me, but if you're looking for an eminently readable anthology of dark fiction that will do the job of unsettling you, then I figure the editors have certainly done their job right.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Sarah Beaudette

    It lives up to its title. I enjoyed taking my time with these immersive, contemplative, creepy stories by some of the best horror authors of our time. Though you'll find a range of styles, voices, and subject matter, every story runs toward emotion. This is what I love about horror--it allows you to trace the full range of human experience, and while it's often dark, these stories are rarely either hopeless or maudlin. Every story plumbs the most painful, weird, and vital chambers of the heart, It lives up to its title. I enjoyed taking my time with these immersive, contemplative, creepy stories by some of the best horror authors of our time. Though you'll find a range of styles, voices, and subject matter, every story runs toward emotion. This is what I love about horror--it allows you to trace the full range of human experience, and while it's often dark, these stories are rarely either hopeless or maudlin. Every story plumbs the most painful, weird, and vital chambers of the heart, using speculative elements to emphasize, enhance, and complicate. Picking Splinters From a Sex Slave by Brian Kirk is the story of a man who finally recovers his daughter after she has been locked for years in a box in someone's house as a sex slave. It's a terrible situation, and I applaud Kirk for his approach, which was surprising, fresh, and full of heart. The ending threw me for a bit of a loop, but that's horror for you. Arbeit Macht Frei by Lisa Mannetti is a concentration camp coming-of-age story concerned with the relativity of morality in the living hell that was the Holocaust. I've never read a Holocaust story like it. The Problem of Susan by Neil Gailman is an absolutely gorgeous story set (sort of?) in the Lion, Witch and Wardrobe universe. I can't say anything more about it for fear of spoiling it, but one image in particular made my spinal fluid dry up. Eugh. So good. Dominion by Christopher Coake takes place in a ghost town, and, well, there are ghosts. When a group of teenagers visit the town for the weekend, their lives intertwine with the lives of the town's dead inhabitants in interesting ways. For some reason I couldn't get into any of the next few stories, but as they're written by Paul Tremblay, Damien Angelica Walters, and other big names in horror, fans of these authors certainly will. Coming to Grief by Clive Barker was a fantastic English creepy monster story (but very slow to develop, the way I like it) whose imagery I'll never forget. Cards For His Spokes, Coins for His Fare by John F. D. Taff felt like it could have been written by Stephen King. A young boy gets a new bike, and is followed by a sinister group of kids. So engaging, completely captures the magnificence of your first independence as a kid in summer. Its ending made me well up with tears, in a good way. I also loved Cellar's Dog by Amanda Gowin, Hey Little Sister by Maria Alexander, and The Place of Revelation by Ramsey Campbell.

  18. 4 out of 5

    N.B. Williams

    To be honest, I'm only partly through this book, but I'm not sure I'm going to make it through the entire volume. Many of the stories seem focused on contrived language patterns rather than compelling storylines and, while some descriptive passages were genius, they were too few and far between to make me want to keep reading. I was especially disappointed in Clive Barker's story. In my opinion, he spent far too much time dwelling on inane details that had no real place or impact on the tale. He To be honest, I'm only partly through this book, but I'm not sure I'm going to make it through the entire volume. Many of the stories seem focused on contrived language patterns rather than compelling storylines and, while some descriptive passages were genius, they were too few and far between to make me want to keep reading. I was especially disappointed in Clive Barker's story. In my opinion, he spent far too much time dwelling on inane details that had no real place or impact on the tale. He could easily have cut half of the story and not lost anything of value. I admire most of Barker's writing and perhaps expected too much of him here. I'm going to keep on plodding through and will update my review if I find some nuggets of gold. UPDATE: Although I started by giving this book 3 stars, I'm upping my stars to 4 for the stories that come after Clive Barker's contribution. The writing is on par with some of the horror "greats" and the ideas are new and refreshing. Definitely glad I kept on reading!

  19. 4 out of 5

    KL

    A collection of unique horror These are not average horror stories. The collection deals with humanity's monsters and the ghosts that we carry in our heads, though many of them do have a supernatural aspect to them as well. These stories won't be to everyone's liking, but I personally loved them. Some were good, some were great, but all them are well written and if not thought provoking, then at least entertaining. I recommend this for those who enjoy experiencing what I call high horror, mental a A collection of unique horror These are not average horror stories. The collection deals with humanity's monsters and the ghosts that we carry in our heads, though many of them do have a supernatural aspect to them as well. These stories won't be to everyone's liking, but I personally loved them. Some were good, some were great, but all them are well written and if not thought provoking, then at least entertaining. I recommend this for those who enjoy experiencing what I call high horror, mental and emotional horror, not just monsters under the bed, ghosts in the closet or bloody slasher type horror. If it makes me think and gets under my skin the way this collection did, I have to give it 5 stars.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Paula

    This highly anticipated book is all that and more!! You can see my full review here... https://horrornovelreviews.com/2016/0...

  21. 5 out of 5

    Ashley

    Caught me at Gaiman :-D

  22. 4 out of 5

    Strega

    Wonderfully creepy and perversely beautiful stories

  23. 4 out of 5

    Brian Mcclain

    Fantastic anthology, highly recommended.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Amber

    Frightening This book was unsettling, disturbing, the crawl into your bones creepy that you can't shake for a while. I can't say I liked it - but I can say the wiring was good, too good almost. This was not one to read in the middle of the night.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Mark Lukens

    A really good collection of stories, but the story by Brian Kirk "Picking Splinters from a Sex Slave" really stuck in my mind ... the best of the bunch.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Darcia Helle

    This is a fantastic collection of "beautiful horror stories". The beauty is literary, in phrasing and in the way the words paint a portrait. These are not the kind of stories that rely on graphic violence for shock, and there are no stereotypical characters. Instead, these are stories that wreck us psychologically, get under our skin and make us shudder. Sometimes reviewing a collection of stories by various authors can be a challenge, as not every reader will like every author. I didn't have th This is a fantastic collection of "beautiful horror stories". The beauty is literary, in phrasing and in the way the words paint a portrait. These are not the kind of stories that rely on graphic violence for shock, and there are no stereotypical characters. Instead, these are stories that wreck us psychologically, get under our skin and make us shudder. Sometimes reviewing a collection of stories by various authors can be a challenge, as not every reader will like every author. I didn't have that problem with this collection. Yes, there were some stories that held me riveted more than others, but I did enjoy them all. If you like your stories to cross over to the dark side, with some psychological torment, then this is the book for you.

  27. 5 out of 5

    L.A. Story

    Excellent literary horror collection! "Gutted" is an absolutely excellent literary horror collection. Anyone left out there who does not believe horror has powerful, literary value should read this anthology.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Jonas Lee

    A fantastic collection of stories, some more beautiful than others. Great collection of writers I've heard of and never knew about with some chilling moments you have to read.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Noel

    Some of the stories made me laugh, one made me cry, all in all I enjoyed this collection of stories. It has a little something for everyone and that's why I would recommend reading this book.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Tammy Schisler

    Excellent anthology. Enjoyed it immensely.

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