Saturday, April 27, 2013

Plow the Bones - by Douglas F. Warrick - A collection that stretches the imagination

5 of 5 Stars     Review Copy

Plow the Bones is the inaugural release in a new series called Apex Voices from Apex Publications.  Each book will feature a collection of shorts from authors you might not have heard of, but whose voices deserve to be heard.

Truth be told, up until now I had never heard of Douglas F. Warrick.  Thankfully, that has been corrected by Leslie Conner, writer, and Apex editor, who asked me to read this collection and post my review which you are reading now.  Thank you.

Not being familiar with Warrick's work, I had no idea what to expect.  What I didn't expect was to be overwhelmingly impressed with these 13 stories, each one stranger and more imaginative than the last.

It's long been said that the opening line is key to grabbing the reader's interest and making said reader want or need to read more.  Warrick certainly has a knack for opening lines.  The first entry in Plow the Bones is "Behindeye: A History" and here is its opening line..."There is a man whose pupils are full of moths.  Dry moths, dying moment by moment and collecting in drifts behind his eyes, deep down in that secret and endless world behind his face."  Then there's, "When the ventriloquist died his will dictated that all of his puppets be burned."  The opening line of "Funeral Song for a Ventriloquist."  Both of those and others just made me want to keep turning pages.

I found each of the stories in this collection to be delightfully offbeat;  fanciful and disturbing at the same time.

There is truly something for everyone.  An intriguing ghost story in, "Her Father's Collection."  I loved the story of the night clowns in, "The Itaewon Eschatology Show."  "Come to My Arms, My Beamish Boy" is an insightful look into Alzheimer's, and there's even a story on the music scene featuring a golem band.  You read that right, a golem band.

The Plow Bone concludes with my personal favorite, "Across the Dead Station Desert, Television Girl," the story of a new service which provides, well, here's the ad copy from the Television Girl website.  "Television Girl!  The newest innovation in erotic partnership! Television Girl!  All of your fantasies fulfilled in a safe, solitary environment!  Television Girl!  Authentic sensual partnership, no strings attached!"  Nothing could go wrong with that idea, right?

Need I tell you Plow the Bones is for adult readers?  I didn't think so.  Right now, it's available in paperback from Amazon .com and is one of the best books I've read in 2013.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The Tent - by Kealan Patrick Burke - A creepy novella with a new kind of monster

5 of 5 Stars

This is the second work I've read this week involving camping.  It's enough to keep me indoors for a long time.  Truthfully, I wasn't planning  to go camping anytime soon.  Not with my wife anyway.  She hates the out of doors.  Her idea of roughing it is spending a few nights in a motel with a pool, HD-TV and WIFI at the Jersey shore.

I think it would be appropriate to call Kealan Patrick Burke an established author at this point.  With five novels, nine novellas (including the Timothy Quinn series), over 100 short stories, and six collections to his credit, he has certainly made a name for himself as a writer in the horror genre.

In his latest novella, The Tent, Burke has created a new horror.

At least something I've never seen before, and it's hungry.  Attracting food in much the same way a Venus Flytrap would attract it's meals.  Seems the monster has developed an appetite for humans, but being in the middle of nowhere limits its food source.  What's a Monster to do?

The Tent is also the story of a family that gets lost in the woods.  A family that is not only lost in the physical sense, but also in the way they deal with one another.  A camping trip designed to bring them closer together could just end up tearing them apart.

Kealan Patrick Burke is an author to keep an eye on and, if you haven't read any of his work, The Tent would be a great first read.  I found it to be very entertaining and full of chilling surprises and it's currently available as an e-book in a variety of e-formats.

Monday, April 22, 2013

The Fox - by Conrad Williams - Third in a quarterly series of premium, signed, chapbooks from the UK website This Is Horror

5 of 5 Stars

The Fox is the third installment in a new, quarterly series of  premium, signed, chapbooks from the UK website This Is Horror.  The website is a great source of info for fans of both Horror writing and films and I figured I'd take a chance on a charter subscription and I'm glad I did.  I've been more than pleased with each of the first three stories in the series, plus I've been exposed to some authors I've not read before.

The first two chapbooks were Joe & Me by David Moody, Thin Men with Yellow Faces by Gary McMahon and Simon Bestwick.

This time it's Conrad Williams, who's the author of seven novels, four novellas and a slew of short stories, and yet I'd never read any of his work before. 

In The Fox, we find the protagonist and his family on a "staycation."  Too busy for a real getaway, the father, his wife and two young daughters are camping out on a nearby farm where a series of events, involving a fox, lead to a genuinely scary moment.  The moment, in some way related to something the father did in his youth.

I know, that's very vague, but any more and I'd likely give it all away.  The ending was like a punch in the face you don't see coming and made the whole story well worth the read.

There actually may be a few subscriptions left, you can get all the details at the This is Horror website.  Just Google "This Is Horror."

Sunday, April 21, 2013

The Compound - by Robert Ford - Zombies in York County, PA

5 of 5 Stars

If you've read more than a few of my reviews, you may have picked up on the fact that I enjoy horror and the zombie sub-genre in particular.  In the last several weeks, I've read and enjoyed, The Hungry 3: At the End of the World from Stephen W. Booth & Harry Shannon, Cannibal Corpse, MC by Tim Curran, and the zombie erotica anthology, Fifty Shades of Decay, edited by Stacey Turner.

This week I chowed down on, The Compound, from Robert Ford.  I'm not sure what makes me want to keep coming back for more.  Maybe I just have a thing for controlled chaos.  It's a bit like my love of roller-coasters; the higher, the faster, the more twists, turns and loops, the better.  I wouldn't want to do that in my car, I'd be afraid for my life and the lives of those around me.  But strap me into the seat of a roller-coaster and even at 60 years of age, I'll keep coming back for more.  Same thing with zombies, the gorier the better.  There is so much horror in day to day life, I find it comforting to put myself in the place of the story's hero or heroine and destroy the evil in the world, one lurching, stumbling, decaying, already dead, monster at a time.

Before we get to a bit about "The Compound" I wanted to relate one of the best dedications of a book I've come across in some time.  Robert writes, "For my mother and father...for always finding a few bucks for me when the Book Mobile came to town and for staying up with me to watch those old Twilight Zones and Tales from the Darkside.  This is all your fault."

The Compound  is actually Tartarus Federal Penitentiary, home to the worst violent criminals society has cultivated. It’s also a revolutionary modern day fortress, powered by solar panels and built to be a self-sustaining environment, complete with dairy barns and green houses. It’s the perfect place to be when an experimental virus hits the American public, making the dead walk the Earth once again.

Two brothers become entwined in a deadly struggle for power among the crowd of prisoners that have overtaken the guards.

Divorced parents fight for survival, trying to find each other and keep their daughter safe from the growing number of zombies.

An old biker is a man on a mission, trying to fulfill a promise to his dead wife, apocalypse be damned. Both his will and his supply of ammunition will be tested.

As the survivors on the outside fight for their lives, their lines of fate converge, leading them through the crowds of zombies and forcing them into the hell of the prison to save one of their own.

In The Compound, the reason for the zombie apocalypse is explained right at the beginning and that's OK, because the book isn't about the buffoons who cause the crisis, it's more about family and the lengths people will go to protect and take care of their loved ones.   Don't get me wrong, It's not all sunshine and roses in central Pennsylvania.  The writer also gives us some of the grossest and most vile prose I've ever read.

One of the highlights for me was seeing what Robert does to one of his friends who happens to be a guitarist and lyricist for a popular death-metal band.  Very entertaining.

Due to violent content, language and adult subject matter, this one is not for kids.  But, if you are a like-minded adult, looking for some fresh zombies while the Walking Dead is off until the Fall, this one should help to tide you over.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Limbus, Inc - Edited by Anne C. Petty - A unique shared-world anthology

5 of 5 Stars     Review Copy

What editor Amne C. Petty and the wonderful folks at JournalStone Publishing have done here is come up with an entertaining way to feature a number of writers in their stable where each one tells a tale using the common denominator of Limbus, Inc.

The book is a well conceived, shared-world, anthology that got better with each new short and was tied together masterfully by yet another story from Brett J. Talley which begins in the Prologue, appears at times between stories and wraps things up nicely in the Epilogue.

"Limbus is latin for 'edge' or 'boundry,' but that's not the whole story.  Welcome to the worlds of Limbus, Inc, a shadow organization at the edge of reality whose methods are low-rent, sketchy, even haphazard to the ordinary eye: a tattered flyer taped to a bus-stop shed or tacked to the bulletin board of a neighborhood Laundromant, a dropped business card, a popup ad on the Internet.  Limbus' employees are as suspicious and ephemeral as the company, if indeed it could be called a company in the normal sense of the word.

Recruiters offer contracts for employment tailored exactly to the job seeker in question.  But a word to the's always a good idea to read the fine print."

In the first, of what appears to be a series of Limbus, Inc. books, we get to enjoy stories as diverse as "The Slaughter Man", by Benjamin kane Ethridge, a man hired by Limbus, Inc. because of his unique skills working for many years in a Slaughterhouse. 

From Brett J. Talley, there's "The Sacrifice" where the lead character suffers from PTSD and only his particulr skills are suited to the job assignment he's been recruited for. 

"One Job Too Many" from Joseph Nassise requires the applicant to travel back in time to perform a variety of tasks.  When reading this one, I became so engrossed in the story, I was late coming back from lunch and all I could think was, please don't fire me, I really don't need to see a Limbus, Inc. business card on my desk. 

Anne C. Petty has an entry titled, "We Employ."   Here, the job is for a dog walker, but believe me, the job entails so much more. 

This installment of Limbus, Inc. finishes with Jonathan Maberry's "Strip Search".  A raw, gritty story involving a series of gruesome murders of young people and an assignment to stop the next one. 

Each author comes at the assignment with a slightly different approach, but they all share the task of getting their protaganist to respond to contact from Limbus, Inc.  I found the business cards to be very effective and enjoyed the way they interacted with the clients.  You'll see what I mean when you read the book and I hope you do. 

Official release date is April 26th amd Limbus, Inc. will be available as a limited edition hardcover, signed by the authors and in ebook formats as well.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Cold Days - by Jim Butcher - Book 14 in The Dresden Files

5 of 5 Stars

It's hard to believe this is the 14th book I've read in this series and overall the material is as fresh as the first time I  found myself in Harry Blackstone Copperfield Dresden's Chicago, well over a decade ago.

Professional Wizard, Warden of the White Council, now back from the dead and the newly named White Knight to Mab, the Queen of Air and Darkness, monarch of the Winter Court of the Sidhe.  If you're lost, that might mean you've never read any of the books in Jim Butcher's Dresden Files series which started in 2000 with Storm Front.

In Cold Days, we find Dresdin in a kind of rehab, recovering from his recent bout with death.  To aid him in his recovery, Mab has assigned the stunningly beautiful, Sarissa, as a sort of physcal therapist.

Thoughout the book, Dresden faces numerous challenges, each one seeming like it very well may be his last.  Even after 14 books, each confontation is fresh and none of them are ever, ever dull. 

Many of  Dresden's friends have evolved over the years, but even with Harry's new role, they remain steadfast and true.  There is his protoge, Molly, who continues to grow stronger in the Wizarding ways,  Bob, who live's in a skull, who "was a spirit of air, or intellect, or any one of a great many terms used to describe such beings," and usually good for a bit of comic relief.  There's Toot-toot, a leader of a crew of tiny faeries who can be convinced to take on nearly any task in exchange for pizza.  Butters is back, as is Dresden's vampire brother, Thomas.  And of course, there's Karrin Murphy and a kiss, but where will that lead?

The details of what the story is about contain too many spoilers to try and dance around them.  Let;s just say it's big.  End of Chicago big. How will our hero and his friends ever survive this one big. 

Cold Days is worth a read, but only if you're already a fan of the series.  Although, the authors makes periodic attempts at explaining it all, there is just way too much history to cover.  I would strongly advise you to go back to where it all began and investigate The Dresen Files for yourself.

All of the stories are available from a number of retailers in a number of print and e-book formats.  I'm already looking forward to #15.  There's got to be a #15.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Aloha from Hell - by Richard Kadrey - Book three in the Sandman Slim series

5 of 5 Stars

When I'm reading a Richard Kadrey novel I'm in another world. A world where anything is posible. 

For the uninitiated, Sandman Slim is a Nephilim.  In his own words, "I'm part angel, half, if you want to get picky about it.  It's great.  A halo and five bucks will get you a cup of coffee in L.A.  Maybe." 

Aloha from Hell, is more of the same non-stop action with a world of characters you're not likely to find anywhere else.  This is the third book in Kadrey's Sandman Slim series and if you've read Sandman Slim and Kill the Dead you have a pretty good idea of what to expect.

The usual suspects are back in Aloha from Hell.  Including Kasabian, described by Slim thusly, 'Like me, he's a monster; only he wasn't born that way.  I made him one when I cut off his head with the black bone knife I brought back from Hell.  The blade didn't let him die.  Now he's a chain-smoking, beer-stealing pain in my ass.  To get specific, Kasabian is a head without a body.  And he won't shut up about it."

In Aloha from Hell, we find Sandman Slim trying to rescue his dead girlfrind, Alice, who was stolen from Heaven and taken to Hell by his arch enemy, Mason Faim.  To do so, he'll have to sneak back into Hell and survive an epic battle involving Angels, Hellions, Kissi and numerous other supernatuaral beings.

Of course being able to suspend your disbelieve is a requirement to enjoy these books, but once you do, this is a wonderful way to escape the everyday.  All of Richard Kadrey's works are available, both in print and for the the Kindle, at 

The previous works in the series, Sandman Slim and Kill the Dead are not required reading, but are definitely recommended for maximum enjoyment.   There is more on the way, too.  The short Devil in the Dollhouse and the novel Devil Said Bang are already available and a new Sandman Slim novel is on the way later this year.  Richard Kadrey is also the author of the wildly imaginative "Butcher Bird: A Novel Of The Dominion" from 2007.  One of all time favorite reads.