Greetings, fellow book lovers!
It is time for another book review! This review will cover the Busted Lip Anthology put out by the new publisher, Fat Lip Press. Today, however, I’m going to do things a little different. I feel it only fitting to have a horror author critique this book, so I’m going to bring in horror author Gina Moray to present her critique of Busted Lip Anthology.
Hello, everyone! I excited about having the opportunity to share my review of Busted Lip Anthology by Fat Lip Press with you. I think before I get to it, I should explain a little about how I go about rating horror books in particular. I hold the horror I read to a pretty high standard so a five-star rating from me has to be well earned. I break down my ratings into six areas, making sure to leave out frivolous comments that have nothing to do with the quality of the story:
Atmosphere – the overall setting and feel of the story. Was I immersed in the plot? Could I feel like I was right there in the story?
Pacing – Did the plot flow at the appropriate pace?
Gore – Depending on the intent of the story, the gore factor may be irrelevant. Was it gratuitous or too light on the raspberry jam?
Fright – I’m extremely hard to scare when it comes to the written word. If I was able to go to sleep right after reading the book, automatic four stars. If I had problems sleeping or I had to glance over my shoulder one too many times, then you may just be in for a five-star rating.
Suspense – Did I get goosebumps while I was reading the book?
Subject – Was the subject matter overdone? Was it a new twist on an old trope? Was it something new entirely? Remember twist endings always give you brownie points!
For an anthology, I usually rate each story on its own merit and then the anthology as a whole. This helps to ensure that an anthology isn’t disregarded based on only one or two bad apples in the bunch.
Now, with that out of the way, let’s dive in, shall we?
The busted Lip Anthology consists of the following stories:
“The Choking Cat” by Cory Cline
“Trash Bag Whore” by Essel & Peyton Pratt
“Mamma N” by Michael Noe
“Gaebler’s Asylum of the Damned” by Kasey Hill
“Death Ray” by James Harper
“The Green Tea Heist” by Donald Armfield
“Ghouls” – A.T. King
“Lovely Malice” – Anthony R. Vidal
“He Doesn’t Know” – Xtina Marie
I was excited about reading this book and had high expectations for its contributors. (In full disclosure, I do know many of the contributors, but that doesn’t save them from an honest review)!
The first story up was a rather necrotic tale about a beloved house pet gone bad, called “The Choking Cat.” The pacing and atmosphere were good. The entire story takes place in a house, but there was plenty of detail to give you a sense of place without dwelling too much on the flowery descriptions. The story had a sensible amount of the gore given the subject matter, which pleased me greatly. Unfortunately, this story failed the fright factor for me, and while there was some suspense leading up to what I thought was a predictable finish, I was delighted by the small twist at the end. Bravo! The subject matter of bad house pets has become a bit more popular, but still one of my favorites to read. The Choking Cat – 4 stars
The next story was entitled “Trash Bag Whore,” which dealt with schizophrenic delusions. This was an interesting piece in which the setting fluctuated in a manner that made you feel as though you were in the midst of a delusion. In some cases, this would be bad for a book, but it worked for this story and added to the madness of the main character. This story ended with a twist that I couldn’t have predicted which always makes me happy. The pacing was great but the atmosphere wasn’t really addressed too much. I would’ve liked to have seen more attention to developing the atmosphere to enhance the “madness” aspect of the story. As far as the suspense factor, it wasn’t so much suspense as constantly trying to figure out where the story was going. There were no goosebumps, but I definitely wanted to see how this story ended. I was intrigued, but not frightened. The subject matter is fairly common but written in a unique enough way that I enjoyed it none the less. Trash Bag Whore – 3.5 stars
The story “Mamma N” was next in line and it was a tale of the ugly side of post- zombie apocalypse life. The atmosphere was great and the descriptions of the scenes were vivid enough that I was able to imagine the surroundings. This was definitely intended to be a gore fest, and it delivered. The story paced rather well moving the story along to its conclusion, which was a rather unexpected one. The story started off as a typical zombie apocalypse, but took an interesting turn on during the last few pages, saving it from the “another zombie story syndrome.” Well done. The story had moments of suspense, but… I wasn’t scared. Mamma N – 4 stars
Next up was “Gaebler’s Asylum of the Damned.” I personally love asylum stories and the insanity that purportedly happened in those institutions, so naturally I was excited to read this one. This one grabbed me from the first few paragraphs and drug me by my throat through the entire story. The pacing was great and the atmosphere was adequate for the story. This story held a higher suspense level than the other before it and the storyline was quite original. Nothing like what I was expecting. There was an excellent amount of gore and as for the fright factor, this story came the closest so far. I actually felt my blood pressure rise while I read it. Gaebler’s Asylum of the Damned – 4.5 stars
The story, “Death Ray,” was by far my least favorite. It felt more like I was reading a James Bond story rather than a horror story. The setting was fairly well described and the pacing was a little slow in the beginning. I do have to say that the story went in an entirely different direction from where I was expecting and the death scene was rather creative. The suspense level was low, but I was curious to see where the story was headed, and the fright factor was not there for me. Death Ray – 3 stars
The next story, “The Green Tea Heist,” was an all-out bizarre horror gore fest. With that said the gore level was high and graphic, and the pacing and storyline were a punch in the face compared to the stories other companions in the anthology. The subject was an interesting twist on the zombie story infused with a bit of gory horror erotica. I was a little disappointed with how the story ended, expecting one last “turn of the screw” for the reader. The story wasn’t really scary so much as it delivered on the shock factor that is required in this subgenre. To be fair to this story, I rated it based on how I believe it performs within the bizarre horror subgenre since it is a very niche subject matter. If you are not into this type of horror I would advise skipping this story unless you have a morbid curiosity for the bizarre. The Green Tea Heist – 4 stars
“Ghoul” was a wonderfully chilling cemetery tale. The atmosphere was excellently detailed and made you feel like you were right in the story. The suspense level was high and the storyline and pacing were great. The gore level was on point for this type of story and appropriately placed. The fright factor was the best I’ve experienced so far, raising my blood pressure a little while I read. Overall this was a well-done story. Ghoul – 4.5 stars
The story, “Lovely Malice” was an intriguing story that immediately grabbed my interest. The pacing and atmosphere were great, but the shift from the past to referring to the future was a little awkward for me. the gore was graphic but fitting to the story and the suspense level was fairly high. The subject matter was one that I personally enjoy, however, I believe disclosing it would spoil the story, so just suffice it to say the story had an interesting perspective on this particular topic. Now, on the matter of fright factor. I actually read this story right before turning out the light to go to sleep and I have to say, this story stuck with me. I had a hard time getting to sleep. Well done! Lovely Malice – 5 stars
The last story, “He Doesn’t Know,” is actually a taste of dark free form poetry. As it isn’t a story, I can’t rate it as I have the others, but I will say that the poem was well imagined and portrayed the subject’s obsession rather well. The flow was smooth for the most part, although there were one or two spots where it was interrupted. Overall, I enjoyed the poem. He Doesn’t Know – 4 stars
Now for the anthology overall, I would have to say it did a great job of bringing together a plethora of contemporary writers from a wide spectrum of subgenres into a collection that was enjoyable to read. It had something for everyone, which pleased me greatly as I enjoy getting to sample many types of writings. I had a couple of minor criticisms. The first is that there were a few typos, however, at the time of this posting, the editorial staff had already been notified of these errors and were in the process of correcting them. Therefore, I consider this a moot point. The other was that I would have personally liked for the whole anthology to be in the same font to make it look more cohesive. While some of the stories didn’t scare me, I am interested in reading more from these authors. I’m very interested to see what magic they can work when not bound by the constraints of the short story. Overall, I would have to say that the Busted Lip Anthology was worth the read and contained many new authors to watch out for. Busted Lip Anthology – 4 stars