Tuesday, February 21, 2017

The Final Reconciliation - by Todd Keisling - A bright mix of old and new in this enjoyable novella

5 of 5 Stars     Review copy

First, some background on The King in Yellow.  Prior to season one of HBO's True Detective series, few people ever heard of Robert W. Chambers or his book of short stories by the same name.  According to Wikipedia the book is named after a play with the same title.  The first half of the book features highly esteemed weird stories, and has been described by critics as a classic in the field of the supernatural. There are ten stories, the first four of which mention The King in Yellow, a forbidden play which induces despair or madness in those who read it.

In The Final Reconciliation, Todd Keisling introduces readers to the fictional heavy metal band The Yellow Kings.  It's been years since that fateful final performance at a small L.A. nightclub.  Miles Hargrove and his producer are interviewing Aidan Cross, looking for the true story of their one and only performance of The Final Reconciliation.  

The band was just starting to make a name for themselves when in walks a gypsy woman calling herself Camilla Bierce.  She showed up shortly after the band had released an EP and were embarking on a cross-country tour.  We blew the doors off every place we played. Every night we took a bow together on stage, every night we piled back into the van, and every night Carmilla came along for the ride.

Keisling proves himself to be a master storyteller weaving a believable tale of an up-and-coming band with Chambers' mystique from The King in Yellow.  When speaking of the time the band spent recording in L.A.,   ...we never really left that dim Carcosa.  That's what Carmilla called it, you see. She never said 'Los Angeles' or 'LA'  It was always Carcosa to her.

That should be enough to whet your appetite for this first-rate novella.  Even the ending of The Final Reconciliation is about as good as it gets, and as a result this book receives my highest recommendation.

Now available for the Kindle from Crystal Lake Publishing. If you subscribe to Kindle Unlimited you can read it at no additional charge.  Also, if you are an Amazon Prime member you can read it for FREE using the Kindle Owners Lending Library.

From the author's bio - Todd Keisling is a writer of horror and speculative fiction, as well as the author of the novels A Life Transparent and The Liminal Man (a 2013 Indie Book Award Finalist), and the forthcoming collection Ugly Little Things.  Born in Kentucky, he now lives with his wife and son somewhere near Reading, Pennsylvania.

Greetings from Moon Hill - by Anthony J. Rapino - A collection of strange, inexplicable tales from Moon Hill, Pennsylvania

3 of 5 Stars     Review copy

I wanted to love Greetings from Moon Hill and I can't quite put a finger on what went wrong.  Conceptually, it's a great idea.  A small town "tucked into the folds of the Pennsylvania countryside."  A place of "Unseen things that are all around us. Impossible flowers, witches, interdimensional beings, murder coverups" and more.  These are all things I love, so what went wrong?

Once I finished the book and checked the copyright, I discovered the stories where written over the last decade.  This could very well account for the disconnect I felt and the seeming unevenness between some of the stories. Ten years is a long time and I'm sure the writer has honed his skills significantly over that time.  Some of the stories felt incomplete yet others were as good as anything I've read this year.

I was nearly 20% into the collection before finding a story I found satisfying on all levels. Camera Obscura about a Junior High Science Fair leading to an obsession with one student's project.  That and a bit of a drinking problem lead to some interesting results.

Other winners in the collection included From Your Body They Rise, Morning Espresso at the Church of Me, and Loosely Enforced Rules, the later about an unorthodox gang of miscreants, with plenty of gore, and took a stand on how french fries should be prepared (I couldn't agree more).

No Touching at All was very clever and Struck by Golden Lightning introduced us to Ewan, a wonderfully complex character who would show up occasionally throughout the collection.

Just Once More, Little Sister was a truly demented story and one of my favorites, as was A Very Large Bird.

As you can see, there are some gems in Greetings From Moon Hill, just not enough for me to fully recommend.

Most of these stories have appeared elsewhere, but are collected here for the first time.

Greetings from Moon Hill is currently available for the Kindle. If you subscribe to Kindle Unlimited you can read it at no additional charge.  Also, if you are an Amazon Prime member you can read it for FREE using the Kindle Owners Lending Library.

From the author's bio - Anthony J. Rapino is a horror writer and sculptor. He's also a teacher, and somehow that makes more sense than it should.  He spends his days among people and things that demand shaping:  Words, clay , or minds, it all amounts to the same job.

Monday, February 13, 2017

The Dwelling - byThomas S. Flowers - Book 1 in the Subdue Series

4 of 5 Stars     Review copy

Dwelling begins with the horrors of war, something the author knows firsthand, having served in the U.S. Army for seven years, including Operation Iraqi Freedom.  But, this is not a war story, it's more a tale of lasting friendships and hidden horror.

"Suicide Squad..."each whispered in unison.  To an outsider, they may have seemed like monks giving some kind of mystic incantation.  "Suicide Squad," they chanted together.  The debate was over.  In a strange way, it never really began. The group o teenagers, who'd come together back when Voltron and Teddy Ruxpin were the hot items on Christmas wish lists, and though of different ages, Bobby and Jake being he oldest members of the group by at least to years, grew closer that day when they identified themselves with the moniker Suicide Squad.

The other members of the squad were Ricky, Johnathan, and Maggie.  Each of their stories are touched upon within the pages of this first book in Thomas S. Flowers' Subdue series. Complete with multiple storylines, of marriage, a crisis of faith, the death of one of their members...and then there's the House...and what lies beneath.

There is a lot of ground to cover in Dwelling and much of book 1 is necessarily expository in nature, but that does not mean slow and boring.  In reality, it's anything but.

Don't expect much in the way of answers, though.  I'm sure we'll get those in books 2 and 3 in the series. The good thing is both Emerging and Conceiving are already published.

Recommended and I'm looking forward to reading the rest of the series soon.

Dwelling (Subdue Book 1) is available from Limitless PublicationsIf you subscribe to Kindle Unlimited you can read it at no additional charge.  Also, if you are an Amazon Prime member you can read it for FREE using the Kindle Owners Lending Library.

From the author's bio - Thomas S. Flowers is the published author of several stories of dark fiction. He resides in Houston, Texas, with his wife and daughter.  In 2008, he was honorably discharged from the U.S. Army where he served for seven years. In 2014, Thomas graduated from University of Houston Clear Lake with a BA in History. He blogs at machinemean.org, where he does author interviews and reviews on a wide range of strange yet oddly related topics.

Friday, February 3, 2017

The Angel of the Abyss: A Jake Hatcher Novel - by Hank Schwaeble - Demons, psychics, and Hatcher...Oh my

4 of 5 stars     Review copy

Angel of the Abyss is book three in the Jake Hatcher series.  If you're thinking about diving into this one.  I do recommend going all in, by reading Damnable and Diabolical first.  Sure you can read any of them as a standalone novel, but they work much better as a series.

Before I get started on the review, I need to tip the proverbial hat to cover artist Dean Samed.  Go ahead and blow it up to full screen.  Check out the detail. I've read more than a hundred books this year and that is the best cover I've seen so far.

If you've never read a Jake Hatcher novel before, the following pretty much sums up his character...

...a man who knew in his heart he was damned for all eternity, who I am certain has always known that, whether it is true or not, and still chooses to do good, to fight for what is right. Not for his salvation, not for his God, but simply to do what a good man must.

The Angel of the Abyss begins with our intrepid hero in a cave looking for answers, what he found was a hoax.  Where this leads is a wild ride involving demons, carnates (physically perfect females, the unusual hybrid offspring of a demon and a human), psychics, a special child, and a plot to throw hell into chaos.  A story packed with explosive action from start to finish.  Pure escapism.

Be sure to check your suspension of disbelief at the door and prepare for a kaleidoscope of images and a story that may seem convoluted at times, but will all come together in the end.  And then get ready for the set up for the next story in the series.  We just need to be patient while Hank Schwaeble puts pen to paper.

Look for Angel of the Abyss: A Jake Hatcher Novel available soon from Cohesion Press.

Hank Schwaeble is a writer and attorney in Houston, Texas. His debut novel, Damnable, won the Bram Stoker Award for Best First Novel. He is also the author of Diabolical, and now The Angel of the Abyss (all three in the Jake Hatcher series).  Hank is also the author of the horror-noir collection American Nocturne and numerous short stories.

Hank is an active member of the Horror Writers Association and the International Thriller Writers Association.

The Rib from Which I Remake the World - by Ed Kurtz - From noir to a metaphysical nightmare

5 of 5 Stars

The Rib from Which I Remake the World  is one of those books which doesn't fit neatly into any category.  Is it Noir? Horror? Psychological Thriller? Occult? The list could go on, but truthfully, what Ed Kurtz's latest is, is a heluva read.

People came and went from circuses all the time, running away to join and then running back home when things got rough.

From the beginning, what really stood out about this book was the prose with a strong sense of noir.

Then the lady came in—floated in, more like—right by the cashier's cage and straight to the beat up chair like she's been sitting in it all her life.

Litchfield, Arkansas.  Not a lot going on there, but it is a place rich in characters.  The hotel detective, the local sheriff and his deputy, the local preacher and his daughter, the movie house owner and his wife and it's there that this story really comes to life.

A Road Show comes to town with film to play at the Palace Theatre Motherhood Too Soon. It's scandalous, purporting to show an actual childbirth at the end of the motion picture.

Then there's a mysterious, invitation only, midnight show which accompanies the main feature   This is where Kurtz's tale goes from being a crime story to something more. Before long it warps into something completely metaphysical and becomes an unrelenting nightmare for those still alive.

One of the members of the road show is torn apart in his hotel room.  The one witness says it was more like his arms and legs tore themselves off.

I get the feeling I may have already said too much, but in some ways, I've merely scratched the surface of this wonderful book.

The final reveal was wonderfully inventive and totally original. All of your questions will be answered.  I've never read anything like The Rib from Which I Remake the World.

This was a read I will not soon forget.

From ChiZine Publications, The Rib from Which I Remake the World is available in both paperback and e-book formats.

From the author's bio - Ed Kurtz is also the author of Nausea, Angel of the Abyss, The Forty-Two, and A Wind of Knives, as well as numerous short stories.  Ed resides in Minnesota.

Monday, January 30, 2017

White Death - by Jack Castle - A taut little thriller set in the Arctic

4 of 5 Stars     Review copy

White Death begins with a disaster at the annual Iditarod dog-sled race, but quickly moves to the Arctic Imperative Conference where Dr. Kate Foster is speaking to the assembled group.  Although the speech does not go as planned, it does lead to a grant and an opportunity to join a research team at Dead Bear Island.

Dr. Foster arrives at Deadhorse airport at the same time as a team of investigators sent to look into a multiple homicide at the very destination she was heading to.

When one of the secondary characters says, "This is like in that horror movie where the monster from outer space picks off the scientists in Antarctica one-by-one.  Man, I loved that movie."  We all know exactly what he was referring to.  In some respects one may think White Death is derivative of The Thing, but actually the similarities are few.

As the mystery unravels, the terror mounts, and the death count rises.  Things are never quite what they seem in White Death.  One thing I did enjoy with this book was the way the author kept it real. It took very little suspension of disbelief to enjoy Jack Castle's latest thriller.

The facts page which precedes this work of fiction is well worth your time.  More thriller than horror, but certainly recommended.

White Death is available in both paperback and e-book formats from EDGE Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing.

From the author's bio - Jack Castle loves adventure.  He has traveled the globe as a professional stuntman for stage, film, and television. While working for Universal Studios, he met Cinderella at Walt Disney World and they were soon married.  After moving to Alaska, he worked as a tour guide, police officer, Criminal Justice professor, and certified weapons instructor. He has been stationed on a remote island in the Aleutians as a Response Team Commander and his last job in the Arctic Circle was protecting engineers from ravenous polar bears. It was this last experience which actually inspired White Death.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Haven - by Tom Deady - An epic coming of age story with terrific twist

5 of 5 Stars     Review copy

After nearly seventeen years in Braxton State Prison, for a crime he didn't commit, Paul Greymore is a free man.  Free to return to the lakeside town of Haven.  Greymore may be free from the prison walls, but will he ever be free from his past?  Not if Cody Crawford, the local Chief of Police has any say in the matter.,

At it's simplest, Haven is a wonderful coming of age story, filled with excellent characters I grew to love and hate over the course of the 500 pages that make up Tom Deady's debut novel.

Of course there's Paul Greymore, disfigured in a childhood accident involving the spilling of boiling water on his young face.  Father Neil McCarthy who believes in Paul's innocence.  There's a bevy of teens who provide the story's heart and soul.  Denny and his best friend Billy.  Billy's slightly older sister, Julie.  Julie's bad-boy boyfriend, Dale, who happens to be Sheriff Crawford's son, as well as his cronies.

Deady provides layer after layer of narrative, there's a certain charm in his storytelling with one carefully crafted scene after another.  Some writers have a way of making the reader so comfortable with their words that it's like watching a movie in your mind.  Haven  is like that.

I don't always read the story synopsis before reading a book.  Sometimes I'll go into it cold, either because I like the author, trust the publisher, or have heard from others who like the book.  This is the way I went into Haven thinking it was just a nice little coming of age tale, and then...bang.  Wow.

There are some wonderful moments in Haven.  If you're looking for a read that will deliver hours of enjoyment.  You can't do much better than Tom Deady's debut novel.

Limited to 750 signed copies and already sold out, Haven is published by Cemetery Dance Publications.  Hopefully it will see a wider release down the road so everyone can enjoy this work.

From the author's bio - Tom was born and raised in Malden, Massachusetts, not far from the historic (and spooky) town of Salem.  He has endured a career as an IT professional, but his dream has always been to be a writer.  A passionate Red Sox fan, Tom and a friend created Surviving Grady at the start of the 2004 season. Ten years and three World Series championships later, he still blogs about the Sox.