A book review by Sadie Hartmann

V. Castro is a new-to-me author that I discovered on Twitter and then read her novella, HAIRSPRAY & SWITCHBLADES. I was drawn into her effortless storytelling voice rich in cultural and feministic overtones. I have enjoyed several of her short stories found in various anthologies I’ve read over the last year. V. Castro is a hard working, strong voice in horror that I enthusiastically seek out whenever I see that she has a contribution on a TOC for upcoming anthologies.
Cynthia Pelayo is also a new-to-me author. I’ve read two poetry collections and a novella and she has not disappointed. She has a unique voice that can be soft and lyrical in one moment and then pitch-black bone-chilling the next. Highly recommend checking out her work.

All of this being said, I was excited to see they were the editors for LATINX SCREAMS, an entire showcase of Latinx voices “screaming” to be heard but also writing stories to make you scream. I love that play on words.
The back of the book makes a simple statement, “An anthology of Latinx horror stories from some of the most stellar voices writing today.” I think this sets the proper expectations for readers because the stories collected here do not adhere to any singular theme. They are joined together in blood with a common purpose-to provide readers with a full anthology of Latinx horror writers in order to make a loud sound in an otherwise “noisy” genre that can snuff out POC voices.

Let’s dive in! For the sake of full transparency, the only authors I had read previously were Sergio Gomez (CAMP SLAUGHTER-loved it), Monique Quintana (CENOTE CITY), and V. Castro (HAIRSPRAY & SWITCHBLADES)

Hector Acosta/Sangre Derramada

A man must investigate the reason for why a finger was found in a package of chicken. Acosta infuses social commentary on classism with all the impending doom of violence. Thick anticipation/suspense as the reader feels a growing sense of frustration given the situation the protagonist finds himself in.

Sarah Davis/Black Sheep

Another sort of investigative vibe with this story as a reporter/journalist goes on assignment to uncover the truth behind a series of violent attacks where the victims are beaten and left with shaved heads. I liked the unraveling of this vengeance horror and the mystery behind the identity of the “Black Sheep”.

Rios de la Luz/Morning of the Teeth

Ooooooh, exorcism. As soon as I read the first line, I settled into my reading position to get fully invested. I love a good demon possession story. This one took an unexpected turn as the exorcism transitioned from one “tried and true” method to one more unconventional. I think readers will enjoy where this one ends up.

Laura Diaz de Arce/Frijoles

First, frijoles is one of my favorite Spanish words to say and reminds me the most of my Papa Isaac who made the best-refried beans known to any and all Mexican Restaurants. He made his beans for his customers in a giant steel pot and used a big, flat wooden spoon too-so this story gave me all the feels right off the bat. I enjoyed the storytelling and rich cultural flavor in this story.

Sergio Gomez/Come, Play

SERGIO!!! This guy can write. I already knew Sergio could write authentic teen characters given his work in Camp Slaughter, but it’s a welcomed surprise that he’s just as adept writing younger children as well. I loved how this story starts so carefree about chasing frogs and then takes a cold, hard left into an unsettling, menacing tone.

Arasibo Campeche/The Organometallic God

Wow! What an opening line. The first indication this was not going to pull any punches. I think body horror/disease/health crisis horror is one of the scariest tropes because it hits so close to home for so many of us who either battle our own health anxiety or our fears about the health of our loved ones.

Richie Narvaez/Galan

OK, this story made me hungry talking about yummy food smells and family. This one was a little bit dialog-heavy and the format was something I needed to get used to which mean the story was hard for me to get invested in-not enough exposition. But I did like the characters and strong sense of family/relationships.

Baillie Puckett/The Devil With Me

“I was possessed by the devil.” A very short but memorable piece.

Monique Quintana/The Throats of Neptune

MERMAIDS!! That’s all I have to say in order to sell readers straight up front. There is a huge desire for more mermaid horror. Take note publishers/authors! Quintana brings a very soft, fairytale, lyrical quality to her storytelling that I enjoy. This tale moves and ebbs and flows with rhythm and purpose–sometimes a little ambiguous like poetry, but still has enough story elements to follow.

E. Reyes/Behind the Mountain

I enjoyed the way this story aligned itself with cultural spirituality and superstition surrounding death and the afterlife. I’ve read a Santa Muerte horror story before and I really love the folklore surrounding The Lady of Holy Death

A.E. Santana/Imperial Slaughterhouse

I love, love a good domestic/human monsters story and this one capitalizes on one of my favorite tropes- Family relationships can be so layered and complicated, especially when loved ones are so close to death-this one has a darkness to it that makes readers lean in and hope for the best.

V. Castro/Pancho Claus Vs. Krampus

I skipped ahead and read this one first because I got this around Christmas time and wanted to jump right into holiday horror for the season! I was so surprised by the level of intricately plotted detail and folklore Castro was able to bring to this tale. I hope we see a return of this Latinx Christmas universe she built in just a manner of pages.

Note: Sadie rated the book 4 1/2 stars which is bumped up to a 5 by Horror Oasis.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Author

V.Castro is the author of Maria The Wanted and the Legacy of The Keepers – her debut vampire novel series and The Erotic Modern Life of Malinalli the Vampire- an erotic novella series. Follow her on Instagram, and Twitter.

Reviewer

Sadie Hartmann aka Mother Horror reviews horror for Cemetery Dance and SCREAM Magazine. She is the co-owner of the horror fiction subscription company, Night Worms. Follow her on Goodreads, Instagram and Twitter.

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