Thursday, March 23, 2017

The Rage of Cthulhu - by Gary Fry

4 of 5 Stars     Review copy

I don't think the subject matter of the new novella from Gary Fry is much of a secret.  With a title like The Rage of Cthulhu the reader has a pretty good idea of what to expect.

Cthulhu still lives, too, I suppose, again in that chasm of stone which has shielded him since the sun was young.  Who knows the end?  What had risen may sink, and what has sunk may rise.  Loathsomeness waits and dreams in the deep, and decay spreads over the tottering cities of men. A time will come. 

- H.P. Lovecraft: "The Call of Cthulhu"

George Cox and his wife, Christine are preparing to travel the world.  Married for forty years, George has recently been diagnosed with a brain tumor and if they don't make the trip now, they likely never will.

Aside from occasional bouts of dizziness, George's condition may also cause hallucinations and therein lies the twist with this story.

Are the horrors that George Cox uncovers on his travels real or are they a result of his condition.  It's up to the reader to decide.

If it's been a while since you've read a story steeped in the Lovecraftian mythos, The Rage of Cthulhu will fill that void nicely.

A quick read which I thoroughly enjoyed.

Published by Horrific Tales Publishing The Rage of Cthulhu is available in both hardcover and 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 - Gary Fry has a PhD in psychology, though his first love is literature. He lives in Dracula's Whitby, literally around the corner from where Bram Stoker was staying while thinking about that legendary character.  He has been writing seriously for about 15 years.  Gary has had a number of books published, including short story collections, novellas and novels.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

The Haunted Hills - by Glenn Rolfe - If you prefer your horror bloody and sexually charged , this is the novel you've been looking for

5 of 5 stars     Review copy

It's been a while since I've read a good in-your-face horror novel. Don't get me wrong, I've read and enjoyed an abundance of excellent work in 2016, but when I compare them to The Haunted Halls, the latest from up-and-coming horror writer Glenn Rolfe, they've all been rather tame.

The story takes place in The Bruton Inn, Better Beds, Better service, Better Stay. For those unfortunate enough to be booked there, the slogan doesn't exactly live up to the promise.

On the surface The Haunted Halls may seem like a ghost story, after all the word haunted is right there in the tile.  But, in reality this is much more than a few spirits hanging a round an aging hotel.  The evil is dark, malevolent, and sexually charged.

The terror starts right from the very first pages...The ice queen reappeared behind the body of Edward Young.  She spared no smile, only a cold glance over the shoulder of the frozen soul before her.  She slipped away, back to her place beneath the inn's heated pool.

On a personal note: I really enjoyed the many music and book references in Rolfe's story, as they all added to the narrative in ways that made me smile.

With horrors coming from all directions, The Haunted Halls is a wonderfully twisted tale filled with characters to both cheer and despise.

Be advised, this is a story heavy on both sex and violence.  If it were a movie, it would certainly be rated R, if not NC-17, if that's still a thing.  If that's not your cup of tea, you might want to choose something else for your next read.  But if you like your horror to have a bit of meat on the bone, you should consider adding this book to your personal TBR list.

The Haunted Halls, from Shadow Work Publishing, is available in both paperback and e-book formats.  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 - Glenn is an author, singer, and songwriter from the haunted woods of New England.  He has studied Creative Writing at Southern New Hampshire University, and continues his education in the world of horror by devouring the works of Stephen King and Richard Laymon.

Monday, March 20, 2017

A Kiss of Thorns - by Tim Waggoner

5 of 5 Stars     Review copy

The latest novella from Tim Waggoner and Darkfuse is drenched in sex and ultra violent.

In the end, young, old, beautiful, ugly, it didn't matter.  Skin is skin and it all came off the same.

Fifteen-year-old Lonny, seventeen-year-old Delia, and their father, Nathaniel, make for one demented clan, a family that puts the fun back in dysfunctional. Incestual both with father and daughter, as well as brother and sister.  But when dad finds out what Lonny and Delia are up to, things turn ugly fast.

As an adult, Lonny has been trying to bring his prescious sister back to life by attempting to transfer the lifeforce of his victims to his sister.  He's about to give up when circumstance provides him with a potential new victim.

A Kiss of Thorns is one helluva horror novella and is available in e-book format from Darkfuse.

If you enjoy sexually charged bloodbaths, grab a copy of A Kiss of Thorns, now.

Tim Waggoner’s first novel came out in 2001, and he’s published over thirty novels and three collections of short stories since. He writes original fantasy and horror, as well as media tie-ins.  He’s been a finalist for the Shirley Jackson Award and the Scribe Award, and his fiction has received numerous Honorable Mentions in volumes of Best Horror of the Year. In 2016, the Horror Writers Association honored him with the Mentor of the Year Award. In addition to writing, Tim is also a full-time tenured professor who teaches creative writing and composition at Sinclair College.



Friday, March 17, 2017

Hope and Walker - by Andrew Cull

5 of 5 Stars     Review copy

Hope and Walker, by Andrew Cull, is a charming story with a touch of horror. The opening line, We were both 10. But he was dead.  And I sat drawing him, immediately drew me in, so important with a short story.

Em Walker's parents ran one of the two funeral homes in the small town of Hope.

Mum and Dad never argued much.  Although they did have a huge row one time when I was seven. I'd been playing hide and seek with Dad when he'd gotten a call from a customer.  He'd been on the phone so long that he'd forgotten all about the game.  Two hours later Mum found me asleep in a casket, where I'd hidden, while she was giving a tour of the showroom.  It hadn't helped matters when I'd woken up with a start, sat bolt upright in the coffin and screamed.  Mum and Dad lost that sale to Bob Ryan and it was quite a while before I showed my face downstairs again.

When ten-year-old Billy Jenkins came to Walker and Son Funeral Directors it was an extraordinarily sad day.  His murder a mystery.  As was her habit by now, Em sat drawing his likeness in her sketchbook, talking to Billy as she drew.  What happens next was nothing short of remarkable.  To learn more.  Pick up this exceptional short story.

Highly recommended.

Hope and Walker is published by Vermillion Press and is available for the Kindle through Amazon.com.  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 - Andre Cull is a writer and director of The Dark and The Possession Of David O'Reilly (UK title : The Torment). His first novel, Remains, is due for release later this year.






Thursday, March 16, 2017

Behind Her Eyes - by Sarah Pinborough - A brilliant psychological suspense thriller

5 of 5 Stars     Review copy

There is a quote from Benjamin Franklin at the beginning of Behind Her Eyes. It provides a clue, of sorts, as to the devilish nature of the story which follows.

Three can keep a secret if two are dead.

There are three principle characters in Sarah Pinborough's new psychological thriller.  Louise, the attractive, but somewhat chubby, divorced mother of six-year-old Adam.  Louise's boss, David, a psychiatrist by profession.  And David's beautiful, yet troubled wife, Adele.

The author cleverly tells her story through the first person point of view alternating betweeen each of the primary characters.  Each one exposing their own motivations while keeping their secrets from the others.  At first it might seem like you've picked up a romantic comedy, but it's not long before the reader can see there's more going on here than meets the eye.

Night terrors and lucid dreaming soon play a part in a tale so dark and twisted it's like trying to piece together a giant jigsaw puzzle without a picture to guide you. Just when you think you might know what's going on, trust me, you don't.

I know 2017 is just getting started, but it's going to be tough to find a better read in the months ahead. Pick up Behind Her Eyes and move it to the top of your TBR list.  It's that good.

Behind Her Eyes is published by Flatiron Books and is available in hardcover, paperback, e-book, and audio formats.  That means there is absolutely no excuse for you not to read this exceptional book.

From the author's bio - Sarah Pinborough is a critically acclaimed adult and YA author based in London. Sarah was the 2009 winner of the British Fantasy Award for Best Short Story and also the 2010 and 2014 winner of the British Fantasy Award for Best Novella, and she has four times been short-listed for Best Novel. She is also a screenwriter who has written for the BBC and has several original television projects in development.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Wallflower by Chad Lutzke

5 of 5 Stars     Review copy

A few months ago, I got to read Chad Lutzke's Of Foster Homes and Flies and quickly realized I had found a new author worth following.

There are many roads to addiction and Wallflower depicts one young man's decent to dependence.

Chris, Eddie, and Kent are killing time after high school and before the rest of their lives and fall into "urban exploration."  In one of their forays into an abandoned housing development they become involved in an altercation with a vagrant.

Later, Chris returns alone and strikes up an awkward relationship with the junkie in hopes he could safely try heroin with someone who's been there and done that.

Why would someone even start down such a path?  Chris explains the start of his journey. Without knowing the man before me, and with no personal experience with drugs harder than the occasional joint, I was naive about most of it.  And it puzzled me to no end why someone would give up everything they had just for a high.

The chapter titles alone should give you an idea of how things progress.  Temptation - Succumbing - Denial - Delusions - Headfirst - Consequences - Revelations.

A quick note on the cover for Wallflower.   It was designed by Lutzke himself and once you've read this novella you'll clearly see how it visually captures the story within.

Strongly recommended.

Wallflower is available in both paperback and e-book formats through Amazon.com.  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 - Chad Lutzke lives in Battle Creek, MI. with his wife and children where he works as a medical language specialist. His fictional work can be found in several magazines and anthologies including his own 18-story anthology anthology, Night As a Catalyst. He has written a collaborative effort with horror author Terry M. West, The Him Deep Down. In the summer of 2016 Lutzke released his dark coming-of-age novella Of Foster Homes and Flies.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

A Long December - by Richard Chizmar

4 of 5 Stars     Review copy

Thirty-four short stories and the title novella combine to make a worthwhile collection for any reader who enjoys good speculative fiction.  The only reason for giving Richard's career spanning compendium four stars is the number of stories I felt were incomplete.  Those stories were all compelling and entertaining right up until the final page where I would feel a bit let down or disappointed.

The collection begins with Blood Brothers - Even after all of the years and circumstances which have kept them apart, the Foster brothers still have a special bond, one that would be seemingly unbreakable.  My favorite line in the story was and the cubs were gonna in the goddamn world series.  A premonition perhaps?

The Man With the X-Ray Eyes about one man's quest to save the world from aliens is a prime example of a great story that ended too soon.  It could have been so much more.

Don't get me wrong, there were many wonderful stories to be found in this book.  One such tale was Ditch Treasures.  You wouldn't believe the things found by road crews mowing the median stips along the Maryland stretch of I-95.

The Lake is Life is a wonderfully twisted little tale of the Solomon Island slasher.  According to legend, there was once a drifter who had gone crazy and started kidnapping local girls and bringing them here to the island.  Once he had them trapped here, he would let them go and then hunt them down in a sadistic game of cat and mouse, ultimately capturing them and slicing them to pieces with a hunting knife.

Brothers (written with Ed Goman) was one of my favorites, as was Cemetery Dance, one of Richard's earliest shorts and astory which would become the name of both his horror magazine and small press.

A Crime of Passion was the best story in the book.  Both believable and frightening. There's also a very dark Christmas tale called A Season of Giving.

I found The Poetry of Life to be powerful and bleak.  The darkness in this tale just sort of snuck up on me.

And then there's A Long December, a novella which by itself is worth the purchase price. The long-time neighbor and good friend of Robert Howard is found to be a serial killer, but there is so much more to the truth.

Despite my minor complaints A Long December is a collection I can easily recommend.

Originally published as a signed, limited edition hardcover from Subterranean Press, A Long December is now avilable in both trade paperback and e-book formats through Amazon.com.

From the author's bio - Richard Chizmar edits anthologies, writes fiction, produces films, writes screenplays, and teaches writing.