Monday, October 28, 2013

Reaping October - Stories from the Black & Orange Universe - by Benjamin Kane Ethridge

4 of 5 Stars

For the uninitiated, Black & Orange is a novel from Benjamin Kane Ethridge.  An effort which was presented with the Bram Stoker award for Superior  Achievement In a First Novel From the Horror Writers Association.

In  Black & Orange Benjamin Kane Ethridge created an amazingly complex mythos. There's the Church of Midnight, a mysterious organization whose goal is to unite with the Church of Morning located in the Old Domain, a place separate from the real world and filled with horrors.  And that just begins to scratch the surface.

November 30th, 2013 will see the release of Nomads (Black &Orange II) from Bad Moon Books.

In an effort to tide you over to the new novel, and just in time for Halloween, Benjamin Kane Ethridge and Bad Moon Books have released Reaping October: Stories from the Black & Orange Universe.  Three distinctly different tales involving the people and creatures of the Old Dominion.

"Child Care" is a terrifying Halloween story told from the perspective of 10 year-old Mesheila.  As a result, we get gems like, "Mom's going to a party tonight.  She's going as a pirate wrench."  I could see my 9 year-old grandson saying something like that.  Left alone with her older brother, Mesheila comes face to face with a living Jack O'lantern with fangs and bloody eyes and an insatiable hunger.   Great pacing in this one and by far my favorite of the three.

"The Cats of Delkilth" takes place in the Old Dominion.  Sort of a tale about the birth of the Nomads, the upcoming sequel to Black and Orange.  The cats in the story are described as ", the size of a domestic cat, with an orange mane.  Fiery runes burned in their fur, lighting with power."  I think artist Matt Dixon did a brilliant job of translating that description into the cover art for this book.

The third and final story is "All Other Days."  Chaplain Cloth, a key player in Black & Orange, has inhabited the body of John Maghan of the Los Angeles Police Department in an effort to obtain a photo taken of him a number of years ago.  "He just had to find that photo.  The less about him in this world, the less human interference."

Three stories, each with a different perspective on the Old and New Dominions, the division and what you'll find there.

It certainly helps to have read Black & Orange before reading October Reaping.  Although the stories in the later can certainly stand on their own, they are enhanced greatly by what you'll find in the original volume. I'm definitely looking forward to the next book in the series.

Black & Orange is available as a signed hardcover and trade paperback from Bad Moon Books and as an e-book from  Reaping October: Stories from the Black & Orange Universe is currently available as an e-book from

I certainly wouldn't recommend these works for younger readers or the prudish, but if your up for something different, I can strongly recommend Black & Orange and Reaping October: Stories from the Black & Orange Universe.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Nightmare Man - by Alan Ryker - A novella of night terrors that become all too real

5 of 5 Stars

Alan Ryker's Nightmare Man is a look at a man who's life is slowly falling apart from some serious night terrors.  They're so bad, they affect his work, his family, his entire life.  He's already on the only available medication for the problem, but it no longer seems to be helping.

His shrink suggests he take part in a study of a new medication.  He signs up, but that's when things go from scary to downright frightening.

I really enjoyed Nightmare Man. In the short time allowed by the story's length, Ryker does an excellent job of defining his characters and building relationships.  In a single paragraph he manages to clearly define how much he cares for his young children, Logan (named after Wolverine), and his sister, Madison.  "While I've managed to pass on my love of comic books and comic book cartoons to Logan (and he managed to get me into Power Rangers~I had no idea how awesome that show is), Madison hasn't taken to them.  She likes Hello Kitty.  Everything she owns costs twice as much as it should because it has that cat's round head stuck on it.  We used to call her honey bunny which is both cute and a reference to Pulp Fiction.  She now insists on being called honey kitty.  I've tried to explain to her that it makes no sense and doesn't rhyme.  She doesn't care."

Nightmare Man is a well-conceptualized story and the author has a reader-friendly writing style which made for a quick read.

Nightmare Man is available as a signed, limited edition, hardcover from DarkFuse and for the Kindle from  If you are a member of Amazon Prime you can borrow this book for FREE from the Kindle Owners Lending Library.

Highly recommended.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Mirror (of the) Nameless - by Luke Walker - A novella full of monster gods

3 of 5 Stars

I'm really having a difficult time with this review.  On the surface Mirror of the) Nameless seems to be a Lovecraftian influenced story of monster gods creating havoc across Europe.  Segoth, Gatur and Naz Yaah each powerful in their own way and requiring thousands of human sacrifices.

Amid all the chaos we have Tom, looking for his missing girlfriend, Ashleigh, and Ashleigh's father, Dave, who has joined the search.  All the while, Tom and Dave are trying to elude the police, as well as some crazy followers of Naz Yaah, and the monster gods themselves.

Sounds like fun, right?  Well, not really.  Not being a writer, I couldn't begin to tell you what was missing, but somehow the story just seemed incomplete.  Plus, I don't fully comprehend things like allegory, which I suspect this book may be.  I do see similarities between the way the general populace in Luke Walker's story has given up its freedoms and are willing to sacrifice themselves for an overall feeling of safety when compared to the way we are being forced to live our lives today.  Maybe that's what Luke Walker was striving for or maybe he was just trying to write an entertaining tale.  Either way, this was one book I could have lived without.

Mirror (of the) Nameless is available from DarkFuse through  If you have Amazon Prime you can borrow this book for FREE from the Kindle Lending Library.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Hell Gate by Elizabeth Massie - Horror at Coney Island in early 1900s

5 of 5 Stars

Hell Gate by Elizabeth Massie is totally unlike anything else I've read in 2013.  Original in concept and execution.  At times terrifying.  And a fascinating look at Coney Island in the early 1900s.

The story of Suzanne Heath, a child of wealth and privilege, who has a gift.  The gift to see events from a touch.  A gift her mother is convinced is of the devil.  So much so, she sends her to Madame Harlow's School for Young Ladies where she becomes part of the Morgans a group of girls with similar talents.

Events and circumstances lead to a loss of memory and a new home at the Hudson Colored Waif's Asylum where she was allowed to live in the attic and work in the kitchen.  While there, parts of her memory return and she and her friend Cittie make their way to NYC.

Years later, living in the Bowery and working as a Luna Park ticket-seller on Coney Island, Suzanne is called upon to use her gift to help in solving a series of grisly murders.

What she discovers is shocking, yet so clear, I was surprised I never saw it coming.

In addition to a compelling story, I found the setting to be amazing.  "While Steeplechase Park fronted on Surf Avenue, the main entrance was on the side, off the Bowery.  Suzanne took Bushman's Walk into the crowded hubbub of independent shows, theaters, rides, shops, game booths, and eateries.  Bright posters and billboards promised everything from 'best lunches in all the world' to 'most fun you'll ever have.'  Countless American flags flapped overhead as people of all shapes, sizes, and ages squeezed past, laughing, shouting, arguing, carrying parasols, packages, babies, cheap prizes.  Past Henderson's Vaudeville Theater, Stauch's Restaurant, clam and crab venders, pony rides, haunted houses, and the steep and narrow Drip the Dips roller coaster.  Stepping over spilled beer and ice cream, downed toddlers, and lost handkerchiefs.  Then, like a behemoth, appearing through the fog, there was the gigantic, garish, Funny Face, grinning with huge red wooden lips and vicious white wooden teeth, hanging directly over the entrance to Steeplechase."  It's almost like being there.

There are many kinds of horror in Massie's Hell Gate, including the horrors of prejudice, racism and domestic abuse.  Not for the faint of heart and definitely not a casual read, but if you like a little meat with your horror, this one's for you.

Hell Gate is available now from Darkfuse and

Highly recommended.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

The Last Night of October - by Greg Chapman - A fresh Halloween

4 of 5 Stars

I am a fan of Halloween.  If you know me, or have ever read this blog before, this should really come as no surprise.  I think a big part of my affinity for the holiday is the chance to be someone or something else, if only for a few hours.

Then there's the dark side of Halloween.  One night a year when it's acceptable to revel in scaring and being scared.  Yep, I love Halloween.

Enter Greg Chapman, an Austalian artist and Horror writer, who grew up in a world without Halloween.  It's true, in Australia, Halloween just never caught on. No trick-or-treating, no costumes, no Halloween.  But, Greg's a horror writer and since Halloween is nearly synonymous with Horror, he's done his homework and the result is this gem of a novella about events that took place and continue to take place on The Last Night of October.

As with all good stories, this one starts with an opening line that draws you right in.  "Every Halloween, Gerald Forsyth's worst fear would come a-knocking."  The Last Night of October  is about friendship, survival, making choices and living with the consequences of those choices.

For someone who didn't grow up with the Halloween traditions, the author does an exceptional job of capturing the feel of the holiday. "Through the lace curtains over the front windows Gerald could see children, dressed as ghosts, zombies and princesses.  Pumpkins, mutilated, yet smiling, sat on porches; gatekeepers to the underworld.  People were laughing and frolicking, filling the children's baskets and bags with sugary junk, while others waited gleefully for the chance to open their doors to complete strangers."

The Last Night of October is available as a Trade Paperback and as an e-book from Bad Moon Books.

Highly recommended.

Friday, October 11, 2013

The Gate Theory - by Kaaron Warren - Five shorts from one of Australia's finest dark fiction writers

4 of 5 Stars    Review Copy

The Gate Theory by Kaaron Warren is the first release from a new publisher of dark fiction.  Based in Autralia, Cohesion Press, is the brainchild of writer and recent president of the Australian Horror Writer's Association (AHWA), Geoff Brown.

The Gate Theory is a collection of five shorts from the imaginative mind of Kaaron Warren, a well-known, award winning, Australian author.  All of these stories have appeared elsewhere, but are collected here for the first time.

All of the stories are all disturbing, even if I don't fully understand all of them.

"Purity"  Takes the saying, "laughter is the best medicine" to new heights.  But, like any medication, if not administered correctly, it could be dangerous.

"That Girl"  I hear the title and I automatically think of Marlo Thomas.  After all, I am an American of a certain age.  I would be rather surprized if Kaaron Warren has even heard of the '60s sitcom and that's just as well.  Her story, set in Fiji, as are many of her tales, is a bit esoteric for my taste, but I do become lost in the words and in the story.  But, is it a ghost story, the story of a missing girl, or something else?

"Dead Sea Fruit"  The story of the Ash Mouth Man.  A woman dentist kisses all of her "clients to learn their nature from the taste of their mouths.  Virgins are salty, alcoholics sweert.  Addicts taste like fake orange juice, the stuff you spoon into a glass then add water."

"The History Thief"  The perfect title and a wonderful opening line.  "Three days Alvin lay on the floor of his dusty lounge room before he realized he was no longer anchored to his body."  For me, this was my favorite of the five stories in the collection.  Original, wonderfully told, with a clever twist at the end.

"The Gaze Dogs of Nine Waterfall"  I will say this about Kaaron Warren, she certainly has an amazing imagination.  All five stories take me to places I've never been before, places I've never even begun to imagine.  Rosie McDonald specializes in aquiring hard to find dogs for her clients.  This time it's the vampire dog, found only on the island of Viti Levu, in Fiji.  The journey is dangerous and the task could prove deadly.

The Gate Theory is a fine introduction to Cohesion Press and, if you've not already discovered her writing, an excellent way to become familiar with Kaaron Warren.  Currently available at and if you're a member of Amazon Prime, you can read it for FREE through the Kindle Lending Library.

Highly recommended.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Six of the Best: A Hellish Half-Dozen - by Kevin G. Bufton

4.5 of 5 Stars    Review Copy

A few weeks back I was offered a book by an author I was not familiar with, but decided to take a chance.  Kevin G. Bufton, from Birkenhead in the United Kingdom, is the real deal.

Six of the Best: A Hellish Half-Dozen may only contain six tales, but they are six of the best I've read this year.  Well, what do you know, truth in advertising.  The collection has three stories with zombies (each from a distinctly original perspective), and three more with totally original themes that are just as scary.

The book starts with "Mother's Milk."  A graphic, cringe-worthy, yet thought provoking zombie story with a rather cute ending.

Then there's "The Shoot," the story of a writer who gets the interview of his dreams with wrestling's Masked Marauder. With the interview, come some series sutprises. This is proof that Bufton can really deliver the goods as he hits every mark, never missing a beat.

Back to zombies with "53 Minutes."  Once I got into this one the title made perfect sense, and yet again, the author finds a niche in the zombie genre I've not seen explored before.

There's also "The Root's" where Bufton manages to turn in an exellent tale which will have you giving tumbleweeds the right of way the next time you´re in the wild, wild west.

"The Wren" is another great story, this time of an age old secret tradition carried on by the men folk of the community.  A young man thinks he's discovered what they're up to and when he's found out, they ask him to join them, much to his surprise and misfortune.

And finally, "Hooked."  Another twist on the zombie story.  This time on the high seas.

Overall, I was quite impressed with Kevin G. Bufton's work and look forward to reading more in the future.

Six of the Best: A Hellish Half-Dozen is avaiable now for the Kindle and in paperback from

Highly recommended.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Summer's End - by Lisa Morton

5 of 5 Stars    Review copy

What a great way to kick off the Halloween season.  Can you think of anything better than a new novella from the writer who's become synonymous with the holiday?

Lisa Morton is the author of Trick or Treat: A History of Halloween which was awarded the 2012 Bram Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in Non-fiction, and also won the Grand Prize at the 2012 Halloween Book Festival causing her to become affectionately known as the Queen of Halloween.

Summer's End is unique in that the writer is also the protagonist in the story which leads to this epic opening line. "My name is Lisa Morton.  I'm one of the world's leading authorities on Halloween.  And this year I discovered that everything I thought I knew, was wrong."

The title explanation was was pretty good, too.  "...the Celts had celebrated 'summer's end' (the literal translation of 'Samhain') with a three-day long party of drinking, feasting and horse racing."

What follows is an entertaining blend of real-life Lisa and story Lisa as the author finds herself caught up in desperate attempt to set history back on it's proper track.

Plenty of scarey moments and a few that can best be described as cringe-worthy.  Summer's End by Lisa Morton is officially available on October 4th, 2013 from Journalstone Publishing.  If you'd like something fresh to kick-start your Halloween spirit, this is the one.

Strongly recommended.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Trust: The Hero Chronicles (Volume 2) - by Tim Mettey

4 of 5 Stars    Review copy

Trust: The Hero Chronicles is the second entry in this YA series and is every bit as good as the first, Secrets: The Hero Chronicles. 

It's been three months since Nicholas learned he was a part of the Thusians, an ancient group of secret guardians of mankind, destined to sacrifice their lives at any given time, to save those around them.

Book two, further develops the mythos of the Thusians, their mission and those that would stand in their way.  At the same time it's about relationships, the importance of trust in those relationships and learning who to trust.

Tim Mettey does a very nice job of weaving life lesson's into his storyline.  Without being heavy-handed, there are teaching moments which many YA readers can benefit from.  The story itself is rather simple, with Nicholas meeting a number of challenges while dealing with the normal ups and downs of life as a teenager.

The climax of book two has several nice twists and some big surprises.  One thing, I'm still trying to figure out is the Tic Tac effect.  If you read the book 1 or 2, you'll understand what I mean.

If you're a younger reader, or know someone who is in middle school and up, I can strongly recommend Trust: The Hero Chronicles (volume 2), but I would consider reading book 1, Secrets: The Hero Chronicles first and, as of the posting of this review, it is available for FREE for the kindle at  Click here.