Monday, December 29, 2014

2014 - My personal top 10 favorite books

These are not the 10 Best books of the year, but of the 134 books I got to read in 2014, these are my 10 favorites...

#10

Rough Magick (Gnomesaga Book 1)  by Kenny Soward from Raganarok Publications.

"Rough Magick is a story which evokes wonderment, laughter, a sense of foreboding, anger, and involves every possible emotion."

http://frankmichaelserrington.blogspot.com/2014/10/rough-magick-gnome-saga-book-1-by-kenny.html


#9 

Hell's Door by Sandy DeLuca from Darkfuse.

"DeLuca does a wonderful job of keeping the reader guessing at the truth right to the final pages with an ending I never saw coming."

http://frankmichaelserrington.blogspot.com/2014/03/hells-door-by-sandy-deluca-very.html




#8

The Forty First Wink by James Walley from Ragnarok Publications.

"With a writing style reminiscent of the late Douglas Adams (while remaining entirely Earthbound, if you don't count a flying Pirate ship), James Walley takes the reader on a rollercoaster ride of an adventure."

http://frankmichaelserrington.blogspot.com/2014/06/the-forty-first-week-by-james-walley.html





#7

Netherworld (Book One of the Chronicles of Diana Furnaval) by Lisa Morton from Journalstone.

"Netherworld: Book One of the Chronicles of Diana Furnaval has everything I like in a book. Great characterization, well-told story, plenty of action and a place I'd like to return to someday."

http://frankmichaelserrington.blogspot.com/2014/01/netherworld-book-one-of-chronicles-of.html




#6

Dämoren - by Seth Skorkowsky from Ragnarok Publications

"Author, Seth Skorkowsky, does a very good job of creating believable situations using extraordinary characters.  The conflict between monsters and heroes is embellished by the distrust among the Valducans themselves and the surprise reveal at the end of the book works well as closure for book one and sets up book two nicely."

http://frankmichaelserrington.blogspot.com/2014/04/damoren-by-seth-skorkowsky-first-book.html




#5

Like Death by Tim Waggoner from Apex Publications

"There are times in Like Death where the line between reality, dreams and hallucinations becomes razor thin, the story telling is raw and you will get to the point where you will just learn to expect the unexpected.  In three words, I loved it."

http://frankmichaelserrington.blogspot.com/2014/01/like-death-by-tim-waggoner-brilliantly.html



#4

Corrosion by Jon Bassoff from Darkfuse

"Corrosion is full of good writing and features one of the most twisted, demented protagonists I've ever encountered."

http://frankmichaelserrington.blogspot.com/2014/02/corrosion-by-jon-bassoff-amazing-first.html





#3

Darknet  by John R Little  from Journalstone

"Wow.  I've been reading some very dark stuff lately andDarknet is one of the bleakest so far.  I may have to go watch a few episodes of "My Little Pony" or something to create a bit of balance in my life."

http://frankmichaelserrington.blogspot.com/2014/11/darknet-by-john-r-little-loved-omg.html




#2

Chelsea Avenue by Armand Rosamilia from Ragnarok Publications

"Chelsea Avenue is a real location in Long Branch, New Jersey.  The Murphy's Law Club was a real place.  On July 8th, 1987, the famous Haunted House on the pier in Long Branch did, indeed, burn down.  The rest of this well-imagined story comes from the demented mind of Armand Rosamilia."

http://frankmichaelserrington.blogspot.com/2014/09/chelsea-avenue-by-armand-rosamilia.html




#1

The Boy Who Drew Monsters by Keith Donohue from Picador

"The Boy Who Drew Monsters is a hypnotic literary horror novel about a young boy trapped inside his own world, whose drawings blur the lines between fantasy and reality."

http://frankmichaelserrington.blogspot.com/2014/10/the-boy-who-drew-monsters-by-keith.html



2014 was a great year and I'm looking forward to 2015.  Here's to good reading.


The Lost Level - by Brian Keene - Book One in a new lost world/time travel series

4.5 of 5 Stars     Review copy

One look at the cover art from Kirsi Salonen and you have a pretty good idea where Brian Keene's, The Lost Level, is going to take you.  This homage to Edgar Rice Burroughs, Sid and Marty Kroft, Joe R. Lansdale, H. G. Wells, and others takes you  to places that can only be reached through the imagination.

The story is told by Aaron Pace, written by hand in a spiral-bound notebook found in a student's backpack inside of an abandoned school bus.  The school bus and Aaron are on, or is it in, the lost level, a place from which there is no way home.  He got there through the Labyrinth.  "The Labyrinth is perhaps best described as a dimensional shortcut through space and time.  It touches and connects everything.  Most of humanity remains ignorant of it's presence, but it is explored and utilized by madmen, magi, occultists, and a few in the highest levels of world government."

Aaron's goal in writing this all down is so he can attempt to explain how he got to The Lost Level and what happened after. Especially the story of his friends Kasheena and Bloop.  I can't go into great detail about what happens in the book without getting into big-time spoiler mode.  Let's just say the story borrows from other Keene novels (with entertaining results), there's a bit of the TV series Lost thrown in, and a definite Twilight Zone vibe as well.  There are monsters everywhere and with a sun that never sets, time itself is irrelevant.

My only complaint is that The Lost Level ended too soon.  The good news is that Keene has merely scratched the surface in what could be his opus piece.  I eagerly await Return to the Lost Level and the prequel to book one, Hole in the World.

Published by Apex Publications, the actual release date for The Lost Level isn't until January 19th, 2015.  But, if you pre-order the paperback through the publisher's website, you get the (DRM free) e-book immediately.

Recommended?  You betcha!

Friday, December 26, 2014

Severance - by Chris Bucholz - Epic Science Fiction with a touch of humor

3 of 5 Stars     Review Copy

Multi-generational space travel.  There are so many places to go with a story with that as your basic premise.

The journey to the third planet around the star Tau Prius has been in progress for close to 240 years, about as long as it's been since the United States declared it's independence from England.  Think of the stories that could be told.

The story Severance gives us, about the spaceship Argo and its denizens, really left me disappointed.  I've never read anything by by Chris Bucholz, but he's got some interesting credentials, by day, he works as a writer for video game developer Stardock, with his latest projects being Galactic Civilizations and Star Control.  Sounds cool, right?  Chris also writes for Cracked.com, an online humor site.  So I'm expecting Science Fiction with a touch of humor.  Well, it just never comes together for me. Thematically, it's sci-fi with some occasional lighthearted banter from two of the principal characters.

The story started with Laura Stein and Bruce Redenbach going to great lengths to prank a club/society/street-gang known as the Markers.  A group that would distinguish themselves from their peers by "pissing on things and off people."  The prank involved them using their skills and access, as maintenance workers, to "mark" the living room of of the leader of the group with the urine of an underling and let the chips fall where they may.  Problem is, that little story is never mentioned again.  I would have like to have known the outcome of this little incident.

What soon follows is a murder, a mystery, and a plot that could endanger some fifty-thousand of the ship's inhabitants.  On the surface it all sounds rather exciting, but I didn't find it terribly entertaining nor did I find any of the characters to be particularly likable.

From the Apex Book Company, Severance, is available in both paperback and digital formats from a wide variety of online retailers.  If you would like to sample the book, the first chapter is available online at the Apex Book Company's website.

For me, Severance was just OK.  As always, your mileage may vary.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Angel Manor (Lucifer Falls Book 1) - by Chantal Noordeloos - A wickedly enjoyable ghost story

5 of 5 Stars

I absolutely love picking up a book by someone I've never read before, finding a story which exceeds my expectations, and then discovering it's the writer's first full-length novel.  This is exactly what happened with Angel Manor (Lucifer Falls Book 1) by Chantal Noordeloos.

I kept seeing this book pop up in my Facebook News Feed with great reviews and recommendations and decided to see what all the fuss was about.

Let's see if this gets past the Amazon censors. "The blood trickled over the sagging breasts of the Mother Superior, staining her white skin crimson.  The limp body of a five-year old boy hung slack in her arms."  What a kick-ass way to start a horror novel.

Freya Formynder has inherited Angel Manor, a property big enough to be a hotel and that's exactly the plan, to turn the place into a money making proposition with the help of her two besties, Oliver Jardin and Bambi Green.

Lucifer Falls is a beautiful location for Angel Manor.  Although, local legend has it that when Lucifer fell from Heaven, this is where he landed.

The facility has potential, but it's also got some unwanted guests.  Add a group of young construction workers from the "Second Chance" project and a psychic with her team of ghost hunters, and Angel Manor has all the makings of a wildly imaginative haunted house story.

The author goes all out, no character is safe, and some of the scenes are truly disturbing.  I really enjoyed what Chantal Noordeloos has done here and look forward to book two in the Lucifer Falls series.

Angel Manor, published by Horrific Tales Publishing, is available in paperback and for the Kindle through Amazon.com and if you subscribe to Kindle Unlimited you can read this one at no additional charge.

Highly recommended.






Monday, December 15, 2014

Survivor's Guilt - by Kelli Owen - A very nice horror novella with two big twists

5 of 5 Stars  

Not sure how I missed Survivor's Guilt when it came out back in April of 2014, but I'm glad I finally got around to reading this novella from one of my favorite writers.

Survivor's Guilt is the story of one man's unique way of providing for his family.  It's difficult to go into much detail here without major spoilers.  I'll just share this great opening paragraph, it hooked me.

My grave is empty.  I'm not a vampire or zombie or some other form of the undead.  I'm not undead at all.  Matter of fact, I'm not dead.  I never was.  But the woman and girl, standing in front of the headstone etched with a name I no longer use, think I was--or rather, I am.

What follows is a remarkable story with not one, but two unexpected twists from a writer whose work I truly admire, a writer with wonderful descriptive skills with an eye for detail.

Run down surroundings--wooden walls, mostly unpainted, with little or no insulation where the guts are exposed, broken windows at the back that show nothing but the darkness beyond and what may or may not be a broken skylight in the ceiling, a small pile of forgotten pallets and scraps of paper waiting for a breeze to give them life--make me think we're in an abandoned warehouse.

I love that line scraps of paper waiting for a breeze to give them life. Just perfect.

Survivor's Guilt is original, daring, gripping and even made me shed a tear.

Survivor's Guilt is available now in paperback and for the Kindle at Amazon.com.

Highly recommended.






Facial - Jeff Strand - Strange does not begin to explain this novella

4 of 5 Stars     Review copy

Much like Forrest Gump's famous box of chocolates, you never know what your're going to get when you open a Jeff Strand book.

In Facial it's a cheating wife...a hired killer...a dead hired killer...a dead lion, but it's what's beneath the dead lion that tips the scales into the world of weird.

Facial is a quick read.  One that will most definitely leave your head spinning. The seemingly unlimited imagination of Jeff Strand has taken his readers to some very unusual places over the years.  None more so that Carlton's basement.

Once again the Darkfuse cover team has provided the perfect artwork for one of their books.  After reading Facial you'll know why.  And let's face it (pun intended), you know you want to read this one.  It's from Jeff Strand and the folks at Darkfuse.  What's not to like.

Available for pre-order now at Amazon.com.  Release date is Tuesday, December 16, 2014.  If you subscribe to Kindle Unlimited you can read this one for no additional charge.

Recommended.



Saturday, December 13, 2014

Time of Death (Book Two): Asylum - by Shana Festa - Surviving the zombie apocalypse

5 of 5 Stars     Review copy

Relative newcomer, Shana Festa, is back with book two in her zombie series. Time of Death: Asylum picks up right where Time of Death: Induction left off.  BTW, if you haven't read the first book, get it right away.  It's one of the best works of zombie fiction to come along in some time and book two is just as good.

Time of Death: Asylum begins with a synopsis of book one, just in case you have short term memory issues, like me. Then we continue following the four surviving members of the Rossi family, husband and wife, Jake and Emma, Jake's brother Vinny, and their sister, Meg.  In addition, Emma's little dog, Daphne is back as the group struggles to survive in the weeks and months following the zombie apocalypse.

The author is incredibly adept at mixing the highs and lows of surviving in the new world.  It's not easy, loved ones are lost and relationships suffer.

"Try as I might, I just couldn't stop my brain from working overtime.  It kept analyzing our current circumstances.  We'd started that morning with eight, and now we ended it with four.  We'd watched half our group die in the course of a single day.  The wort part, besides the obvious loss of people we cared about, was that we' had to kill them with our own hands.  What does it say about the world when murdering  your loved one is the only acceptable option."

Then, there's the all important question of figuring out who to trust among survivor's you meet along the way.

Take the people at the Asylum, after a family vote, the Rossi's decide to take a chance with a larger group of survivors.  What they find there is a level of security, but at what price.

Time of Death: Asylum has everything the zombie reader could want; realism, a story which rings true given the subject matter, an episodic storyline, pathos, a touch of humor, and one hell of a cliff-hanger.

I'm already looking forward to book three.

BTW, kudos to Christian Bentulan for the outstanding cover.

Time of Death: Asylum is available now from all major e-book retailers and is published by Permuted Press who have the great tag line "Enjoy the Apocalypse."

If you love zombies, you don't want to miss Time of Death: Asylum.







Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Oasis of the Damned - by Greg F. Gifune

3 of 5 Stars     Review copy

First, let me mention that I am a fan of Greg Gifune.  In the last few years, I've read six of his works, from short stories to novellas, to full length novels and I have not been disappointed.  I will continue to seek out his stories, because he's one of the best in the genre.

All that being said, Oasis of the Damned left me dry.  An oasis in the middle of the Sahara desert where Owens is the last member of a military group that had crashed nearby, that is, until Heather Richter shows up, herself the sole survivor of a helicopter crash

When night falls, Owens and Richter must fight for their lives against an enemy that is legion.

   "'You've seen nothing,' he snapped.  'You got no idea the kinds of things they can do, the things they'll show you, they--they get in your head and you can't get them out because they know what we love and what we hate.  They know what scares us, what breaks us down and make us vulnerable.'
   Richter squared her stance.  Exhausted as she was , she'd had enough of his cryptic nonsense.  'I asked before.  I'll ask again.  What the hell are these things?'
   'You asked, I told you.'
   'You said they were ghouls.'
   'That's right, straight of of Hell.'
   'I don't believe in Hell.'
   'Hell doesn't care.'"

As you can see, the writing is top notch.  It's the story that didn't do anything for me.  It could be me. Maybe it's allegory, I've never been very good with allegory.  Your experience may vary.

Oasis of the Damned is part of the ongoing novella series from Darkfuse and is available now at Amazon.com.  If you subscribe to Kindle Unlimited you can read this one at no additional charge.






Monday, December 8, 2014

In the Shadows of Children - by Alan Ryker - This one gave me chills

5 of 5 Stars     Review copy

The novella In the Shadows of Children may be short on words, but it's long on chills.  This one actually gave me goosebumps a couple of times.

Aaron has returned to his childhood home for his mother's funeral, his father had passed on seven years ago and his brother, Bobby, had disappeared seven years before that.  What he finds in the closet of the bedroom he once shared with his brother unleashes memories better left forgotten.

I've always found closets to be rather creepy.  Alan Ryker has done little to allay those fears.

"Why was he so scared?  He was a grown man.  It was an empty house, a place he knew well, where he'd grown up in perfect safety."  I loved the way the author allowed the suspense to build slowly, causing the hair on the back of my neck to rise.

In the Shadows of Children is part of the Darkfuse novella series and is currently available for the Kindle from Amazon.com.  If you subscribe to Kindle Unlimited you can read this one at no additional charge.

One word of warning, if you read this one at bedtime, don't expect to get a good night's sleep.

Highly recommended.


Sunday, December 7, 2014

Tinkermage - GnomeSaga (Book II) - by Kenny Soward - The story started in Rough Magick continues

4.5 of 5 Stars     Review copy

Tinkermage continues with the GnomeSaga which began in Rough Magick earlier this year.  Author, Kenny Soward, continues to weave a wonderfully complex world filled with stone creatures, swamp elves, orcs, gnomes (of course), and more.

Niksabella Nur and her brother, Nikselpik, continue to develop their skills in magick as the threat to Hightower, from the Baron and his forces from the Ultraworld become more of a threat.

There is plenty going on in Tinkermage; in addition to preparing to battle the Baron's forces, Nikselpik has to be on the lookout for the former First Wizard out for revenge, and there is romance in the air for Niksabella.  That being said, book two in the GnomeSaga dragged a bit for me. Although there is a big battle scene near the end of Tinkermage, it's not the one we're waiting for.  Look's like we'll need to wait for book three for that one.

I do like Kenny Soward's writing style, the ebb and flow of his words, his attention to detail, and his well-defined characters, all contribute to another good read.

Soward does a good job of bringing the reader up to speed with some highlights from Rough Magick, but I certainly recommend reading book one before reading Tinkermage.

I would be remiss if I didn't give kudos to cover artist Arman Akopian.  I actually found myself attracted to a Gnomestress.  There's something I never expected to type.

Tinkermage is published by Ragnarok Publications and is available in both paperback and Kindle formats from Amazon.com.

If you love epic fantasy, you'll love this series.  Highly recommended.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Arkadium Rising - by Glen Krisch - Book 1 in the Brother's Keeper series

4 of 5 Stars     Review copy

Arkadium Rising is the story of two brothers, Marcus and Jason Grant, different as night and day, as many brothers are.  What sets these brothers apart is one of them has played an important part in bringing about a new post apocalyptic world.

Arkadium Rising is the first in the new Brothers Keeper series from Glen Kirsch.  Although, close to 350 pages long, the story does little more than set the stage for things to come.  It does a nice job in establishing the strained relationship between the brothers and introduces the reader to a number of important characters along the way, but we are left in the dark when it comes to the organization responsible for the destruction of civilization and what's to come.

Arkadium Rising is a character driven story of survival in this brave new world, a world without power, with a few notable exceptions.  It's a story that is epic in scope and with this being the first segment in the overall Brothers Keeper saga, you get the feeling the writer has barely scratched the surface.

This quote on one of the main characters state of mind pretty much sums things up.  "Kylie shifted on her feet, feeling the effects of no sleep, little food, the weight of a seemingly endless string of tragedy.  Her mother had totally lost her marbles.  Her dad was missing.  Her trailer and all of her earthly possessions were most likely burned to cinders.  And now Monique was dead.  And to top it all off, they were running away to... she hadn't the foggiest idea, and were now part of a group of... what? Survivalists?  Armed militia?  A frickin' cult?"

Arkadium Rising is Glen's first work to be published by JournalStone.  it will be available in a variety of formats on their website on December 5th, 2014, but I did notice the Kindle version is available now at Amazon.com.

Recommended.




Sunday, November 30, 2014

Angel of the Abyss - by Ed Kurtz - Wonderfully executed crime novel

5 of 5 Stars     Review copy

Footage from a lost film from the age of silent movies is discovered and Graham Woodard is brought to Hollywood from his home in Massachusetts to work on restoring and preserving what's been found.

Unknown to Graham when he takes the assignment, there is a reason the film has been "lost" all these years and certain people will do whatever it takes to keep it's secrets from being revealed.

Angel of the Abyss was to be the debut film of a new starlet, Grace Baron, formerly Grace Baronsky, from Boise, Idaho.

There are two stories here.  The one where Graham Woodard and his friend Jake Maitland are trying to find the rest of the film, while becoming embroiled in a series of murders, potentially their own, and another about the actual making of the film and what really happened to it's star.

The author, Ed Kurtz, does a very nice job of pacing the two stories, revealing the secrets a bit at a time, and dove-tailing them nicely at the book's end, where all is revealed.  The characters are fully developed, even bit players are richly fleshed out.

Crime novels are generally not my thing, but there are definite similarities between the crime and horror genres and there is certainly a touch of horror in Angel of the Abyss.

Due to be released on December 2, 2014, Angel of the Abyss is published by Darkfuse and will be available at Amazon.com.  You can pre-order the book now at Amazon and if you subscribe to Kindle Unlimited you can read this one at no additional charge .

Highly recommended.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Dark Screams - Vol 1 - edited by Brian James Freeman and Richard Chizmar - A novella length mini anthology

4 of 5 Stars     Review copy

Dark Screams - Volume One is the first in a new series of  mini-horror-anthologies from Hydra, the ebook imprint from Random House, focusing on science fiction, fantasy and horror.

Richard Chizmar is the founder/editor and publisher/editor of Cemetery Dance magazine and Cemetery Dance Publications.  Brian James Freeman is the managing editor of Cemetery Dance Publications.  They are both well-respected horror writers in their own right.

Dark Screams - Volume One begins with "Weeds, " by Stephen King.  This was originally published in 1976 by Cavalier magazine and appeared on the big screen as a part of Creepshow.  Until now this short story has never appeared in any collection   "Weeds" is the tale of  what happens when Jordy Verrill sees a meteor come crashing to earth on his New Hampshire farmstead on the Fourth of July.

The remaining four stories are originals to this collection from Kelly Armstrong, Bill Pronzini, Simon Clark, and Ramsey Campbell.  That's one impressive line up.  Each author plays to their individual strengths leading to a strong and varied set of stories.

I do wish there had been more stories, but the good news is, by keeping the collection small, the publishers are able to keep a low price point and there are plans for at least another three books in the series over the course of the next year from writers like Robert R. Mccammon, Richard Matheson, Peter Straub, Jack Ketchum, Clive Barker, and Ed Gorman.

Dark Screams - Volume One will be made available for download on December 9th, 2014 and can be pre-ordered now through Amazon.com.

Recommended.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Skinjumper - by Lincoln Crisler - A solid first horror novel

4.5 of 5 Stars     Review Copy

It's hard to believe that Skinjumper is Lincoln Crisler's first novel.  It seems like I've been reading his stuff for years.  But, then again, he has written more than 30 short stories, two novellas and edited couple of successful anthologies, so if you're a fan of the horror genre you may have heard the name before.

Skinjumper is a well thought out, imaginative, tale that begins with a attempt to bring a family pet back from the dead.   Amateurs and the occult, what could possibly go wrong?  The attempt fails, but several years later, Terry Miller discovers an unexpected consequence.

Anything more would involve major spoilers, but the title should be enough to give you a clue as to what that consequence might me.  This "Talent" is enough to keep him one step in front of the police as he racks up a bit of a body count.  As is often the case, Terry's desire for revenge may prove to be his undoing.

Crisler does an excellent job of keeping the reader guessing right to the very end.

Skinjumper is available now in paperback and for the Kindle from Amazon.com.  Published by Ragnarok Publications.

Strongly recommended.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

The Hungry 6: The Rule of Three - by Steven W. Booth & Harry Shannon - Another strong entry in the Sheriff Penny Miller saga

5 of 5 Stars     Review copy

When last we left our intrepid zombie fighters, Sheriff Penny Miller, her sometime lover, Scratch, Captain Karl Sheppard, Rolf and the cadaver dog Dudley, the group had been heading down the highway in a stolen police cruiser.

In the epilogue of The Hungry 5: All Hell Breaks Loose, we are led to believe that same cruiser is taken out by a missile launched from a drone following the cruiser.

I figured that could very well be the end of one of my favorite zombie series, but thanks to some creative thinking, authors Steven W. Booth and Harry Shannon are back with book six.  Good news for fans of this entertaining set of books.

In The Hungry 6: The Rule of Three the objective is to find and eliminate the Triad, the three masterminds behind the program that caused the zombie apocalypse and now plan to use their mistake to do the unthinkable.

Once again, Sheriff Miller and what is left of her friends are in the thick of things. "Thirty-six hours was barely long enough to complete her assignment .  It was finally here, the end game. It meant the eradication of the United States, and perhaps all of North America if things went as planned."

Returning to this series was like putting on a set of warm gloves on a bitter Winter day.  Sheriff Penny Miller, Queen of the snarky dialogue is back in form.  Scratch is as surly and protective as ever.  Rolf is still a bit out there, although we learn much more of his story and he contributes in a big way.  And then there are the zombies...lots of zombies.

"A little girl in a pink Disney costume with a golden plastic tiara emerged from the mob.  Her black hair was disheveled, little brown eyes rolled back, little mouth and lips attacking the air like sea creature suction on the smeared wall of an uncleaned fish tank.  Miller shot her through the head without a second thought."

If you've never read any of the Sheriff Penny Miller Saga, you really ought to start at the beginning and read them all, even though the authors do their best to make this a complete story that stands well on it's own.

From Genius Book Publishing, The Hungry 6: The Rule of Three, is available now for the Kindle from Amazon.com.

I you're a fan of zombie lit, don't hesitate to read this series, and if you've been reading these stories all along then I know you want to see how it all ends...or does it?

Definitely recommended.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Darknet - by John R. Little - Loved the OMG moment in this one. Horror at it's finest

4.5 of 5 Stars     Review copy

Wow.  I've been reading some very dark stuff lately and Darknet is one of the bleakest so far.  I may have to go watch a few episodes of "My Little Pony" or something to create a bit of balance in my life.

On the surface, the internet may seem like all fun and games, but then there's Darknet: a seedy underbelly to the web, where anything can be had for a price and presumably with complete anonymity.

Seattle radio personality, Cindy McKay, know to her 50,000 listeners as Cin, loves her job and is good at it.  Her home life is another story.  Although she loves her 10-year-old daughter, Avril, with all of her being, her violently abusive husband Tony is another story.

After interviewing Dr. Rusty Moore about the darkside of the web, Cindy decides to investigate further.  She downloads the software that would allow her to be online anonymously and goes exploring.  Later, "Darknet had been calling to her all day, vague rumblings rolling through her mind. Drugs, gun running, child pornography, livers available to purchase...Assassins for hire."

If you're anything like me, you probably think you have this one all figured out.  You might want to hold back on that assumption.  John R. Little has crafted one hell of a twist into his story and has created the single most despicable character I've read this year.

Darknet is, at times, devastatingly brutal in it's depiction of physical and sexual abuse and as a result, may not be for all readers, but if you can handle it, I think you're going to enjoy the surprises John R. Little has in store for you.

From JournalStone, Darknet, will be released on November 21st, 2014 and will be available through their website in a variety of formats.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

A Shrill Keening - by Ronald Malfi - Strange novella with a touch of Lovecratian mythos

4 of 5 Stars     Review copy

Carl Thompson is institutionalized for the murder of his girlfriend.  Problem is, he doesn't remember committing the crime, even though he called 911.  He doesn't remember anything from just before her murder until after be wakes up in the hospital.

Carl's struck up a friendship with the facility's librarian and has been reading H.P. Lovecraft and Edgar Allan Poe, as well as books on the interpretation of dreams, meanings behind nightmares, and hypnotism.

Days are spent in therapy, with Dr. Lugando, but his nights find him on a boardwalk by the shore.  It's like he's living two realities simultaneously.  What he discovers in the alternate reality is where things get very strange and turn a little Lovecraftian.

All in all, I found A Shrill Keening  to be an interesting exploration of the mind of someone who's gone mad, even if we never learn more about what caused him to go crazy in the first place.

A Shrill Keening is the latest from Darkfuse in their ongoing novella series and is available for the Kindle at Amazon.com.  Plus, if you subscribe to Kindle Unlimited, you can read this one at no additional charge

I will point out that A Shrill Keening is not for everyone, but if you like stories that are a bit "out there," I can certainly recommend this quick read.


Monday, November 17, 2014

Dead World Resurrection - by Joe McKinney - The Collected Zombie Short Stories of Joe McKinney

4 of 5 Stars     Review Copy

Dead World Resurrection: The Collected Zombie Short Stories of Joe McKinney is a collection of nineteen stories of varying length from a master of the zombie sub-genre.

A number of the stories tie into Joe's Dead World novels, while others take a look into other post apocalyptic worlds.

In the Introduction, writer, David Moody lists what he believes make a good zombie story.  One of the points he makes is one I've mentioned before in my reviews, "Most of all, I think the best zombie stories are not about the zombies at all.  They're about the living: the people like you and me, trapped in the middle of an unimaginable nightmare and doing all they can to preserve what remains of their lives and loves from attack by the living dead."

The stories here have appeared in other publications over the years, but this is the first time they have been collected in a single volume.  Good news for zombie fans who may have missed these over the years.

I'm not going to comment on every story, just a few standouts for me, beginning with, "Resurrecting Mindy."  A charming tale that reminded me of "The Gift of the Magi," with zombies.

"Dating In Dead World" is about exactly what the tile would lead you to believe and I found it to be very enjoyable.

"Bury My Heart At Marvin Gardens," was another story that stood out for me.  I particularly liked the way it moved between an actual game of Monopoly and traversing the streets of Atlantic City during the zombie apocalypse

There is a comfort level a reader develops with certain writers.  I've often felt this way with Stephen King.  I feel it with Joe McKinney, too.  When I start reading one of his books or short stories, I get the feeling I'm in very capable hands.

After you've finished all of the stories, stick around for the Author's Notes where Joe gives some insight into each of the stories in the collection and then there's even more after that with "A Reader's Guide to Dead World."

There's a lot of bang for your buck in this collection from JournalStone.  Dead World Resurrection: The Collected Zombie Short Stories of Joe McKinney is available now in nearly all formats at the JournalStone website.

Recommended for lovers of all things zombie.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Toxic Behemoth - David Bernstein - Over the top kaiju fun

5 of 5 Stars     Review copy

5 stars?  Damn right.  Not because it's great literature , but because it knows exactly what it's supposed to be, and is flat out fun.

Michael's been a hit man for the mob for a long time.  He's good at his job and he's careful about getting rid of the body and the murder weapon after every job. When the boss's son, Vinny, asks for the gun used in the most recent hit saying he'll take care of getting rid of it, he has second thoughts, but hey, it's the big guy's son.  Bad move.  Vinny sets him up.  The only way to escape serious jail time is by ratting out Vinny.  It doesn't go well.

The mob related portion of the story is totally believable, brutal, and becomes very bloody. I've come to the realization that NO ONE IS SAFE IN A DAVID BERNSTEIN BOOK.  I'm not going to go into how we get to the Toxic Behemoth.  That would be way to much of a spoiler, better to let you discover this on your own.  It takes some serious suspension of disbelief, but it's worth it.  What follows is exactly what you look for in a kaiju story.

For example, "The cruise linee tilted at a steep angle.  Timmy's dad hadn't been holding on to anything and went flying over the railing.  Timmy's mother cried out, her voice the loudest Timmy had ever heard it.  She fruitlessly reached over the railing, but her husband was already gone, rocketing toward the ocean and screaming the entire way.  Then, just before he hit the water, a tentacle snatched him out of the air.  The force must've been too much, because his dad's body was cut in half.  Blood gushed.  Timmy's dad's upper body was quickly entangled again by the tentacle. The man's legs and waist splashed into the water. but a moment later, the large chunk of meat was snatched up by another tentacle.  Both pieces where brought to the monster's torso area, where the slithering winged serpents tore at the meat."

Once the action starts, it doesn't let up.  If you're susceptible to nightmares, consider yourself warned. Toxic Behemoth is the stuff nightmares are made of.  Uber violence with just a touch of humor to ease the tension.

At the rate he's going, it won't belong before David Bernstein writes a novel where one of his characters just kills everyone on the planet.

If you're looking for a quick read that won't tax your brain and has a healthy dose of mayhem, Toxic behemoth could be the book you're looking for.

Available now as a Kindle download from Amazon.com and if you subscribe to Kindle Unlimited you can get it at no additional charge.

Highly recommended.


Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Yesterday You Said Tomorrow - edited by Scott Lefebvre

4 of 5 Stars  Review copy

Yesterday You Said Tomorrow has one of the more intriguing anthology themes I've come across this year.  The authors where presented the challenge to write a story with the paradigm of fixed timeline time travel.  The results were somewhat mixed.

Yesterday You Said Tomorrow contains a baker's dozen of fresh stories that are all faithful to the anthology's theme, from a diverse group of writers, some of whom I've read before and others I got to read for the first time.

Editor and contributor, Scott Lefevre, sets the stage with "Introduction: Time Machine," a treatise on what the time machine is and how it was discovered by accident when trying to invent a transporter device.

One of my favorite up-and-coming writers, Kit Power, has a nice piece about how confusing time travel can get, called, "Time Out of Mind."

I also enjoyed, "Collectables," by Jay Wilburn, a clever tale of one man's way of protecting his collection.

Ben Pienaar is a new author for me and I found, "A Stitch In Time," to be one of the better stories in the anthology.  using time travel to attempt to stop a man from writing a paper that would lead to the creation of a super-weapon.

Patrick Freivald is a new voice in dark fiction I've read a lot of in the last couple of years.  Check out his teen zombie novels Twice Shy and Special Dead or his new Matt Rowley series which started earlier this year with Jade Sky.  All three worth a look.  In this collection he's got a cool little story called "Foam Ride."

Another great tale comes from Tim Jeffreys.  "The Colour of Roses," is about a company that, at the end of your life, can send you back in time and put you in your life at anytime you choose.  Be careful what you wish for.

Marta Salek's ,"Time Traveler's Symphony," is an interesting concept of using time travel as a option for convicted criminals to get a do-over.

"What Would You Do?" by Chris Philbrook  is among the best.  A story of a time traveler trying to save his wife from a terrible fate.

And the editor has saved the best for last with Angelo Michaels' "The Portal Project."  A very involved story of an attempt to save the planet.

Not every story struct a chord with me, but as you can see from the length of this review, a number of them were very enjoyable.

Yesterday You Said Tomorrow is available from Burnt Offerings Books in both paperback and for the Kindle at Amazon.com.  If you subscribe to Kindle Unlimited, you can read this one at no additional charge.

Recommended.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Forgiving Judas - by Tom Piccirilli - A new collection of poetry



4 of 5 Stars     Review copy

Ordinarily, I wouldn't go near poetry, but this is Tom Piccirilli.  Having read several novels by Tom and knowing he has a way with words, when the opportunity to grab a review copy presented itself, I decided to give Forgiving Judas a try.

Now granted, since I know next to nothing about what makes for good poetry, I can't provide a critical review, but I know what I like, and I do like this short collection.

I found  Forgiving Judas to be a varied collection of of pieces, many of them personal glimpses of the author's mindset these past few years as he's battled brain cancer.  As of this review, Tom seems to be doing well and continues to write, which a good news for readers everywhere.

Forgiving Judas is available now, for the Kindle, from Macabre Ink, a division of Crossroad Press, through Amazon.com.

Recommended.


Saturday, November 8, 2014

Meritropolis by Joel Ohman - Dystopian fiction in the tradition of The Hunger Games

4 of 5 Stars

Meritropolis had a lot going against it.  First novel from a writer with no track record.  Self-published.  Somewhat derivative in the dystopian genre.  But guess what?  Meritropolis manages to overcome all of those obstacles and stand tall as an entertaining YA novel that tells an all too believable story

It's the year AE3.  Three years after the nebulous Event.  From the book description on Amazon.  "Within the walls of Meritropolis, 50,000 inhabitants live in fear, ruled by a brutal System that assigns each citizen a merit score that dictates whether they live or die.  Those with the highest scores thrive, while those with the lowest are subject to the most unforgiving punishment--to be thrust outside the city gates, thrown to the terrifying hybrid creatures that exist beyond."

In a city of limited resources, there is not enough of anything to go around.  The solution is a System where everyone's worth to the community is measured and reevaluated on an ongoing basis.  Fall below a set score and be banished to the outside and certain death.  The rules apply to every man, woman, and child in Meritropolis.

Over the last few years, families have been torn apart.  In some ways this System reminded me of the rumored  "Death Panels" that would be a part of President Obama's Affordable Healthcare Act.  All too possible.

Charley's older brother, Alec, was zeroed out when Charley was just just eight.  Now he's an adult with one of the highest scores in Meritropolis and he's driven to zero out the System.

With a well thought out story line and varied and complete characters,  Meritropolis is a story I can easily recommend for young adult readers and adults who enjoy a good dystopian thriller.   Plus, there is plenty left unresolved and I'm hopeful for a sequel.

Meritropolis  is available now for the Kindle and as a paperback.  If you subscribe to Kindle Unlimited you can read this one at no additional charge.

Recommended.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

The Unhinged - by David Bernstein - The darkest book I've read this year

5 of 5 Stars     Review copy

And the award for the darkest book of 2014 goes to The Unhinged by David Bernstein.  Wow.  I know there are still two months left in the year, but I can't imagine reading anything darker than this one.

Kelley's out with her girlfriends and meets a guy who seems kinda nice, but when she learns he's a cop, she quickly loses interest.  The cop, Kyle takes offense.  You can tell by the way he's acting that he might have anger issues, at the very least.

Aaron Dupree has paid his debt to society.  Six-years served on a fifteen-year sentence for armed robbery, on parole, and doing his best to get his life together.  Aaron has a run-in with the same cop and that's when things start to go bad, very bad.

David Bernstein has crafted something special here.  What happens to his characters is truly horrible. The Unhinged is not for anyone who is easily offended, but at times I got a Richard Layman feel with his story-telling.  It reminded me a bit of the tension present in Layman's Blood Games.  By the time it was over it was like the author was channeling Jack Ketchum when he was writing Off Season.  If anything, David has gone even further than Jack.

There is nothing supernatural in this book.  It's just got some very bad people in it.  What I'm saying is The Unhinged is dark...no darker than that...even darker.

Just released this week from Samhain Horror, The Unhinged is available in paperback and e-book formats.

If you can handle the worst humanity has to offer, then I can highly recommend you get this book.



Monday, November 3, 2014

Ghosts of Eden - by Keith Deininger - Like an acid trip that just won't end

3.5 of 5 Stars     Review copy

I read the opening line. "The man in the street, walking awkwardly in his wrinkled slacks and dress shirt buttoned all the way to his neck at midnight, seemed out of place in the neighborhood, as if he's arrived from another world." I thought, this looks like fun.

Ghosts of Eden was fun in a weird way.  Where magic and physics merge into one, where "Those with the ability to travel between universes, to visit and speak with and influence the minds of the observers--what physicists call the inhabitants of other planets--on distant worlds, would hold the power to guide and shape the course of the multiverse itself."

After the death of her parents, Kayla Greenwood is sent to live with her uncle.  Garty Branson has never met a recreational drug he didn't try.  After a particularly rough experience at a multi-day music festival, Garty, now in possession of a mysterious jar of nothing, is sent to live with his uncle.  Same uncle, Dr. William Eldritch Xander, who isn't at all what we are led to believe.

What kept me from loving this book was that I really didn't like any of the characters.  I didn't feel as if I knew any of then very well and I didn't particularly care what happened to them.  Then there was the overall weirdness of what the children were up against.  When it was over, I felt as if I had just come down from a rather bad trip.

Ghosts of Eden is from Darkfuse and set to be released on November 4th for the Kindle.  If you subscribe to Kindle Unlimited you can read this one at no additional charge.

I can't really come out and recommend Ghosts of Eden, but much like taking LSD back in the '60s, your experience may vary.


Saturday, November 1, 2014

SNAFU: Heroes - edited by Geoff Brown and Amanda J. Spedding - An Anthology of Military Horror

5 of 5 Stars     Review copy

Earlier this year I read and reviewed SNAFU: An Anthology of Military Horror and found it to be one of the best themed anthologies I've read in 2014.

This time the stories are longer, novelette to novella-length tales, and they're just as much fun as those in the original collection. Jonathan Maberry, Weston Ochse, and James A. Moore all return with tales that combine the military and horror genres to great success.

There's also a story from Joesph Nassise, called "The Hungry Dark: A Templar Chronicles Mission."  Somehow I've missed out on this series, I'm going to have to remedy that situation soon.  I love the concept and the story was well executed.

From the The Templar Chronicles website..."The story takes place in the here and now.  The ancient Templar Order has been resurrected as a secret combat arm of the Vatican, charged with defending mankind from the supernatural enemies that surround us. The world at large is unaware of the Order's existence and the Templars take great pains to keep it that way. 'Sometimes the Lord's work is best accomplished in the shadows," is a popular saying among the troops."

In "The Hungry Dark," ECHO Team is sent to Durbandorf, in the heart of the Black Forest, in Gemany, where demons have been inhabiting once-human forms and reworking the flesh they've stolen to suit their individual needs.  "Chimeras, Changelings, Flesh-twisters -- they have a lot of names.  What they're called isn't as important as what they are -- hellspawn."

Weston Ochse is no stranger to military horror, his Seal Team 666 series is up to 3 books and counting.  In "Tarzan Doesn't Live Here Anymore," he's combined a story of a boy obsessed with Tarzan, with an old-time Saturday creature feature loaded with monsters trying to escape from a giant rift in the Sonoran desert.  We're talking giant tarantulas, wasps the size of small planes, and enormous worms.  The military weaponry being used to keep the monsters at bay is quite impressive.

James A. Moore's "War Stories" features a grandfather, who served in both WWII and the Korean conflict, swapping tales with his grandson, just back from Vietnam.  It's all pretty normal until, after a few beers, the grandfather tells the story of what the Germans were up to at a chateau in France. Another entertaining story featuring Jonathan Crowley, a killer character who was also in Moore's story for the original SNAFU anthology.

To bring SNAFU: Heroes to a close, the editors have brought back Jonathan Maberry with a Joe Ledger adventure, "Changeling."  This one, I know, has been published before, most recently in Joe Ledger: Special Ops, published earlier this year by JournalStone.  If your a Joe Ledger fan, the story is set after the events in The Dragon Factory.   "Changling" can be read by itself, but if you read it before The Dragon Factory there are some spoilers.

I enjoyed SNAFU: Heroes every bit as much as the original.  If I had any complaint it's that, at 158 pages, it was over way too soon.  But there is good news, SNAFU II: Survival of the Fittest is due in 2015.

SNAFU: Heroes has just been published by Cohesion Press and is now available as a Kindle download.

Strongly recommended. 

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Immortal - by Steven Savile - An epic adventure in an apocalyptic world

5 of 5 Stars     Review copy

Immortal is about a man without an identity, who wakes in a sleazy hotel room and begins a quest to find out who he really is.  From a Gideon's bible he finds in the room he takes the name Temple.

For me, it was the journey that made this such an enjoyable read.  He's now in a world with silver-eyed dead which Temple comes to think of as The Soulless and he refers to the end of civilization as The Fall.

In his search for a purpose, a thirteen-year-old girl convinces him to save her brother, taken by the Spider Boys. And so it goes.

When Temple reaches his final destination, all is explained, but it's certainly not a happy ending. That's OK.  This is a story that doesn't need a happy ending.  The tale is gritty, at times gruesome, and Temple is an anti-hero with few endearing qualities.

Published by BadPress, Immortal is available now in both paperback and for the Kindle through Amazon.com.

It's a great read.  Highly recommended.




Sunday, October 26, 2014

The Book of Strange New Things - by Michel Faber - Genre-defying novel

4 of 5 Stars  Review copy

The Book of Strange New Things tells the story of Peter Leigh, a devoted man of faith called to the mission of a lifetime, one that takes him light years away from his wife, Bea.

Sent to another world at the request of the indigenous intelligent species. Time, distance, and a world that is falling apart back home, all create an enormous strain on what had once been a loving relationship.

I did enjoy the interactions between Peter and the Oasans as he calls the locals to whom he's been called to serve.  The relationship between the Earth colony and the local population was interesting and believable.

A good portion of the story is told in the form of communications between Peter and his wife back home.  Think long distance e-mail.  Generally, I'm not fond of stories told in this manner, but Faber used the technique well.

Although, the story itself is well-told, I was a bit disappointed with the lack of a satisfying ending. At 500-plus pages, I really would have liked to have a bit more closure.

The Book of Strange New Things, published by Hogarth Press is available now in both print, e-book, and audio formats.

Certainly worth reading, particularly if you don't mind open endings.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Last Mile - by Tim Waggoner - A nice little survival of the fittest post apocalyptic novella

4 of 5 Stars     Review copy

In a relatively short number of pages, Tim Waggoner manages to construct a post apocalyptic landscape that is every bit as realized as those in much longer works.

Survival in the After World is tenuous, at best. Dan is one of a select few marked to serve a Master.  In the main thrust of the story, he's captured a young woman with the intention of delivering her to his Master and what happens during The Last Mile to his destination is the crux of the tale.

At times very disturbing, this product of Tim Waggoner's over-active imagination is nearly everything you could want in a horror novella.

In this brave new world, the ordinary has become extraordinary..."It was part bovine, part human, a woman's head hanging upside down where an udder should've been, her tongue was lolling, matted black hair dragging the ground.  It possessed a long serpent in place of a tail, the head curled underneath the main part of the creature's body so its forked tongue could taste the udder-head's ear. The cow's body was scrawny, its dry, leathery brown hide stretched tight across the bone, so tight that the flesh had torn in numerous places, revealing glimpses of the yellowed skeleton beneath.  The cow head looked as if it had been dipped in acid, for it was nothing but a skull--except for the eyes.  They remained untouched, and they stared at Dan with what he interpreted as malign amusement."

Definitely for adults and not for anyone with a weak stomach, but if you're up for it, The Last Mile is a quick read that will really help you get your horror on.

From Darkfuse Publishers, The Last Mile  is available for the Kindle at Amazon.com and if you subscribe to Kindle Unlimited, you can read this one at no additional charge.

Certainly recommended.


Monday, October 20, 2014

Lucky's Girl - by William Holloway - Excessive sex and violence, but overall a good horror story

4 of 5 Stars     Review copy

I was able to get a copy of Lucky's Girl through LibraryThing.com.   William Holloway is a new author for me and I was drawn to his story by this amazing synopsis...

"Something has awakened on Grove Island. Something that, even in sleep, has held Elton Township in its black embrace. Something old, wise and patient. Something that walked the ancient forests and howled beneath black skies."

Did the story deliver on what was promised?  It most certainly did, but it didn't end there.  What wasn't in the blurb was how far the story would go to show how depraved, perverse and outright disgusting things would turn.

Don't get me wrong, I'm certainly not a prude.  I read horror for enjoyment, but there was something just a bit off-putting about Lucky's Girl.   The story became extremely sexual and not in a nice way. At one point I made a note for myself that the story "was as disgusting as it could get," then another that "I was wrong, it just got more disgusting" and before long another note that said "more disgusting."

Lucky's Girl is "a crazy story, fragmented and baroque, of hideous orgies covered in dreck, bestiality, lycanthropy, mass hypnotic visions, and trees with eyes." And that is just scratching the surface.

On the plus side, Lucky's Girl is filled with memorably flawed  characters.  Even the heroes are far from perfect, and the storyline itself is imaginative and well-plotted.  I stayed away from 5 stars primarily because of too much gratuitous sex and violence.  There's a line I never expected to write in a horror review, but as they say, sometimes less is actually more.

Lucky's Girl is available now in print and in ebook formats at Amazon.com.

Recommended with the above warning for excessive sex and violence.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Monster Ink - by Timothy Baker - Novella length collection of 3 horror shorts

4 of 5 Stars     Review copy

Monster Ink features two tales of in-your-face horror, followed by a healthy dose of urban fantasy in this novella length collection of work form Timothy Baker.

It all starts with "Monster Ink."  A motorcycle club called the Sons of Flesh, a magical tattoo artist they call Pony, and a wet behind the ears Army Private who wants to get some ink celebrating making it through boot camp.  What happens next will make your skin crawl.

"Hell and Tarnation," stars "Leonard.  One of the glorious damned thousands. One of the Prisoned.  Once Grand Inquisitor of Magic and Sorcery, now a demoted servant of Lord Lucifer in his infernal prisons."

The third story is a favorite of mine that was featured in Manifesto UF, an anthology of urban fantasy stories.  It's called, "Front Lines, Big City." Baker's protagonist is a Mage.  If you're familiar with World of Warcraft, you'll know what a Mage is. Simply put, a spellcaster.  This one living as a self-made prisoner in downtown New Kansas City.  A former soldier in the Magical Marine Corps.  When the Second Civil War ended he became a fugitive on the run after an act of congress turned him and his comrades into criminals.

Monster Ink is not for everyone.  I did find the first two stories difficult to follow at times. but overall, I enjoyed this quick read.

From Black Bed Sheet publishers, Monster Ink, is available now for the Kindle at Amazon.com.

If you're up to it, recommended.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Surrogate - by David Bernstein - Be careful what you wish for

5 of 5 Stars     Review copy

Rebecca and Tom Hardwick, like many modern couples have put off raising a family, now Rebecca is 36 and they are actively trying to have a baby when tragedy strikes.

This leaves the couple unable to have a child of their own, even adoption does not seem to be a workable solution.   Now in therapy, Rebecca learns of a remarkable way she and Tom may be able to have a child to call their own.

Even if you think you might have an idea where this is going, I'm nearly certain you'll be surprised.

Surrogate is a fast paced story from start to finish with barely a chance to catch your breath.  I've read a few stories by David Bernstein and have yet to be disappointed.  He writes about real people in real situations and then takes it just a bit beyond reality.

David also knows how to push all of my buttons, at times making me angry, occasionally sad and at one point I was actually nauseous.  Parts of this book are visceral, disturbing, and all too satisfying.

And just when I thought I had an inkling where this was going, there's another twist.

Surrogate is no fairy tale, but if you enjoy real life horror and aren't too squeamish, I think you might really enjoy this new short novel from the folks at Darkfuse.   Surrogate is available now for the Kindle from Amazon.com and if you subscribe to Kindle Unlimited you can read it at no additional charge.

Highly recommended.


Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Cutting Room: Dark Reflections of the Silver Screen - edited by Ellen Datlow

4 of 5 Stars     Review copy

I believe it can be safely said that Ellen Datlow is one of the most well-known editors of Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror working today.  Her newest anthology, just released by Tachyon Publications, is The Cutting Room: Dark Reflections of the Silver Screen.

Here, Datlow has gathered 23 short stories all dealing with the movie industry. A wide variety of tales featuring writers, directors, bit players, and stars; from blockbusters to porn.

A few highlights include the opening story of the collection, "The Cutter," by Edward Bryant.  One of the best short stories I've read this year.  It's about a movie house projectionist in a small town who edits some of the films that come to the Ramona, often making them better.  He's also the cutter of his own dreams.

"Final Girl Theory," by A. C. Wise is a wildly imaginative story of a fictitious film called Kaleidoscope.

Peter Straub has a rather esoteric entry that seems to be made up of every possible film noir cliche, ever.

One the best best in this anthology is "Dead Image," about a young actor who is the spitting image of the legendary James Deacon, who is a fictionalized version of James Dean.

The always entertaining Gary A. Braunbeck has a clever tale, featuring Buster Keaton and Samuel Beckett, called "Onlookers."

There's poetry from Lucy A. Snyder and Daphne Gottlieb, a very cool zombie story from Douglas E. Winter and much, much more.

Kim Newman writes my favorite line in her very funny story of Edgar Allan Poe's influence on Hollywood, "He thinks up this scene where Chuck is possessed by his evil wizard ancestor and smashes an axe through a door to get to his terrified wife (Debra Paget) while shouting something from The Tonight Show.  I know that will never work, but keep quiet."

The Cutting Room: Dark Reflections of the Silver Screen is not perfect, but it was certainly an enjoyable read.  All but one of the stories have been published elsewhere over the years, but I had never read any of these before.

Available now from Tachyon Publications in both print and e-book formats The Cutting Room: Dark Reflections of the Silver Screen is great for film buffs and fans of dark fiction alike.

Recommended.








Friday, October 10, 2014

Rough Magick - GnomeSaga (Book 1) - by Kenny Soward - Well imagined world with a great story

5 of 5 Stars     Review copy

Although I enjoyed The Hobbit & The Lord of the Rings trilogy and a few other Fantasy novels over the years, for the most part, I really don't read or enjoy much in the way of Swords and Sorcery Fantasy.

I am happy to say Rough Magic  is a charming exception.  I decided to read this for a couple of reasons.  I'm a fan of the Dead West series and Kenny Soward was a contributing author on the first two books, and it's published by Ragnarok Publications and they've yet to disappoint me.

I've often mentioned that what makes a great zombie book is the story.  The zombies are basically all the same, so it comes down to what an author does with the characters.  I guess it's the same with Swords and Sorcery Fantasy novels and in this case, the author has created an amazing world called Sullenor populated by Gnomes.

One gnometress in particular, Niksabella Nur, is a tinkerer who has used her skills and a bit of sorcery to create a never-ending energy source.  The High Council, especially First Wizard Raulnock, wants her stopped.  Then there's Jontuk, leader of the Stonekin, a stone-like race from one of the ultraworlds who has an interest in Niksabella's invention.

The Stonekin are at war with the Baron and his legions and by the end of the story, it seems the gnomes are under attack from similar forces.

Rough Magick is a story which evokes wonderment, laughter, a sense of foreboding, anger, and involves every possible emotion.

If you love Swords and Sorcery Fantasy, I can all but guarantee you'll enjoy Rough Magick.  If you're a fan of a great story, you should check out Rough Magick even if not necessarily a fan of the genre.

Rough Magick, from Ragnarok Publications, will be released for the Kindle on October 13th, 2014 and is available now for pre-order.

Strongly recommended.


Tuesday, October 7, 2014

A Strange and Savage Garden - by Tim Waggoner - And you thought your family was dysfunctional

4 of 5 Stars     Review copy

The opening to  A Strange and Savage Garden sets the stage nicely for what follows...

"Welcome home.  Forever.

Lauren left her hometown of Trinity Falls years ago, with no intention of ever going back.  Something bad happened to her in the woods there, so bad that she erased it from her memory--mostly.  But now she's returning for her father's funeral.  Returning to a place where robed men and women circle the town in an endless loop, tirelessly chanting, and where a primeval beast watches from behind the trees, hungering for more than flesh.  Hungering for her.

In Trinity Falls Lauren's grandmother Madelyn reigns supreme.  Lauren escaped her once, but Madelyn won't let her get away again.  This time Madelyn intends to see it through to the bitter, bloody end.   No matter what."

Waggoner certainly knows how to set the mood and does so with his usual aplomb in this creepy story where nothing is as it seems.  Slowly revealing the truth and letting the reader sort out what's real and what's not, the writer manages to make the unbelievable seem plausible .

A Strange and Savage Garden is yet another enjoyable read from Tim Waggoner and is available as an e-book from Samhain Publishing and Amazon.com.

Recommended.



Sunday, October 5, 2014

The Boy Who Drew Monsters - by Keith Donohue - A wildly imaginative story with huge twist

5 of 5 Stars     Review copy

The Boy Who Drew Monsters is a hypnotic literary horror novel about a young boy trapped inside his own world, whose drawings blur the lines between fantasy and reality.

Ten-year-old, Jack Peter Keenan has Asperger disorder, a condition characterized by significant difficulties in social interaction.  Three years ago, he and his friend, Nick, nearly drowned.  Nick actually needed to be resuscitated.  Since then, Jack has trouble leaving the house.

The author has done a fine job of capturing the family life of a child with Asperger's, but The Boy Who Drew Monsters is a work of fiction and rather fantastic fiction at that.

On the surface this seems to be the story of normal parents of a young child with a personality disorder, however it's below the surface where the true story lies.  Part ghost story, part monster story, part thriller, The Boy Who Drew Monsters is a well balanced mix of genres that entertains from start to finish, and what a finish.  I can honestly say I never saw that coming.

Even if the subject matter strays from the world of the believable, the well-developed characters actions and motives ring true and I was totally drawn into the story.

The Boy Who Drew Monsters from MacMillan's Picador imprint will be published on October 7th in both hardback and e-book formats and is certainly worth your attention.

Strongly recommended.