Thursday, February 27, 2014

The Hungry 5 - All Hell Breaks Loose - by Steven W. Booth and Harry Shannon

4.5 Stars    Review copy

Penelope Jean Miller, Sheriff of Flat Rock County, Nevada, is back and still fighting to stay alive, but this time Penny is fighting more than zombies.  She and her rag-tag band of zombie fighters are also trying to remain one step ahead of the people who caused the disaster in the first place.

The Hungry 5 - All Hell Breaks Loose delivers.  The fun starts in the prologue and continues right through to the shocking conclusion.

Steven W. Booth and Harry Shannon continue to breath life into the zombie sub-genre. "Miller approached and spotted a long-dead female behind the wheel.  She appeared to have gotten stuck somehow, perhaps when she'd run out of gas and couldn't reach the pump.  She had an old rusty pistol in her lap.  Miller guessed she had been bitten and then shot herself in the head to keep from coming back.  She was wearing a nightgown and wore green, plastic curlers in her blood-splattered hair.  Her mouth was open and flies had laid eggs within it.  The corpse was not fully decayed.  The odor of decay was now faint but still nauseating."

With old friends and new characters, the writers manage to keep things comfortable yet fresh and of course there is still the sexual tension between Penny and Scratch, and when Scratch shows an interest in one with those new characters, Miller shows her jealous side, "She leaned forward ever so slightly, so as to offer Scratch a generous eyefull of cleavage. The dumb redneck son of a bitch didn't even care that he was being played like an antique accordion at a Cajun picnic."

Once again, it's not necessary to read all the previous books in the series, but why miss out on all the fun.  Will there be more books in the series?  I've heard there will be, but once you read The Hungry 5 - All Hell Breaks Loose you will find yourself wondering how they'll manage to pull that off.

The Hungry 5 - All Hell Breaks Loose is available now from Genius Book Publishing though

A fun read I can highly recommend.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Those Poor, Poor Bastards: Dead West - Book 1 by Tim Marquitz, J.M. Martin, and Kenny Soward - Fightin' deaduns in the wild west

4 of 5 Stars

Nina Weaver and her Pa have come to Coburn Station to trade for supplies.  They barely leave town with their lives.  Dead West - Book One: Those Poor, Poor Bastards opens with a bit of a ruckus that quickly erupts into full-blown chaos.

I've read a lot of Zombie tales over the years, but none has ever begun as strangely as this one.  There are some genre bending twists right at the start which I really enjoyed and then we were quickly on more familiar ground, albeit dusty ground, this is the old west in the 1800's, after all.

The language is as raw as the times and that's pretty rough.  I can't even post the quote I want to here, or Amazon would be editing me when I post the review there.  Let's just say it's rough enough to have ladies of the evening tossing liquid waste from second story windows.  In addition to the language there is plenty of offensive stereotyping complete with the slang that, thanks to modern political correctness, has all but been elimited from polite conversation.  However, in the post Civil War 1800's, it's still commonplace.

For the most part  Dead West - Book One: Those Poor, Poor Bastards Is fast paced and entertaining as all get out.  The writers certainly managed to come up with a diverse group of characters who played well off one another creating both friction and friendships leading to plenty of internal conflict as well as having to fend off the deaduns.  

I did think things got a bit bogged down in the second half, but overall I found Dead West - Book One: Those Poor, Poor Bastards to be a very quick and enjoyable read that left me wanting more.  Fortunately, I shouldn't have long to wait, as Book Two is due next month and a third book in the series is already in the works. 

Dead West - Book One: Those Poor, Poor Bastards is available now for the Kindle at and is published by Ragnarok Publications.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Corrosion - by Jon Bassoff - An amazing first book

5 of 5 Stars

I've long been a believer in strong opening lines and Jon Bassoff delivers in this, his first published novel.  "I was less than 20 miles from the Mountain when the engine gave out, smoke billowed from the hood, and Red Sovine stopped singing."

Corrosion is full of good writing and features one of the most twisted, demented protagonists I've ever encountered.  I truly believe we are a product of our environment, "And the boy, eight maybe nine years old, cowlick in his hair, grinning goofily, unaware of his future, unaware of the death and despair that would surround him for the rest of his days, unaware of the sickness that would destroy his mother, the corrosion of her body, the corrosion of his father's mind, the corrosion of his own soul."

As I read Corrosion, my mind kept coming back to the new HBO series "True Dectective." It's gritty, it's real, and it pulls no punches.  The writer asks, "Truth? What is truth?"  When is the truth also not the truth?  " My name is Joseph Downs.  I served my country proudly."

I thoroughly enjoyed every aspect of Corrosion especially when the author took us back seven years in Part Two and then tied it all together in Part Three and Part Four was just like a big slice of pie with your coffee.

I certainly look forward to more from Jon Bassoff.  Corrosion is available now from Darkfuse Press in both paperback and ebook formats through

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Preview of Dead West: Those Poor, Poor Bastards by J. M. Martin, Tim Marquitz and Kenny Soward

Just got an advance copy of DEAD WEST: Those Poor, Poor Bastards. Book one in a new series written by J.M. Martin, Tim Marquitz and Kenny Soward from Ragnarok Publications.  To say I'm excited about this read would be a massive understatement.

Billed as The Walking Dead meets Hell On Wheels.  This should be fun. Look for my full review coming soon.

For more information on the series, go here!dead-west/cb07

And if you can't wait to get you own copy, well here ya go

Friday, February 21, 2014

Crooked House - by Joe McKinney - An engaging ghost story

4.5 of 5 Stars    Review Copy

Robert Bell needs a break and it's come in the form of a job opportunity from his friend, Thom Horner, who is now the head of the English Department at the prestigious Lightner University in San Antonio.

After his sudden departure from the University of Florida where he had a meltdown of sorts when some administrator with no classroom experience whatsoever wanted to tell him how to teach his class, the prospects were not looking good.

On top of that, being out of work had led to money problems and put a strain on his home life.  So when the offer for a position at Lightner came, it was a Godsend .  And on top of that he was offered living arrangements at the Gertrude Miller Estate for the token payment of $100 per month, utilities included.

Robert's response...
"'This is totally a haunted house, isn't it?'      
'Excuse me/'
'You see that right?  Tell me you do.  It's a big crazy looking house that I couldn't possibly afford, but it's getting handed to me at a song.  I mean come on.  I've read my Henry James, my Shirley Jackson.  Christ, I even read The Shining.  This place is crawling with ghosts, isn't it'"

Little did Robert know what was to be in store for himself and his little family.  Not since jack Torrance in Stephen King's The Shining have I seen a better slow descent into madness from a protagonist.  Kudos to Joe McKinney for doing such a great job with that.  And the climatic sequence is one of the best I've read in a long time.

Crooked House is available now as a signed limited edition from Darkfuse publishers, and also in paperback and Kindle formats from

Truly an enjoyable read and highly recommended.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Dark Lightning: Fifty Flashes of Fearsome Fiction - by Kevin G. Bufton - A lot of short short stories and a few of them are really good

3.5 of 5 Stars    Review copy

There is a very real challenge to writing flash fiction.  How does one manage to create a beginning, middle and an end to a story in such an economy of words?  Sometimes in fewer than 100 words?  Think it's easy?  Try it sometime.

Author, Kevin G. Bufton, manages to pull off this feat quite often in this collection of flash fiction.

Dark Lightning: Fifty Flashes of Fearsome Fiction, aside from flirting with some dangerous alliteration in the title, runs the gamut of the horror genre, from humorous to creepy to downright disgusting.  The problem, for me, was that for every gem I found there were two or three stories that were just common stones.

In the world of flash fiction, sometimes less is more, yet sometimes more could be more, as I occasionally found myself thinking, I wonder where the author could have taken this in a longer piece?

Overall, I'm glad I got to read Dark Lightning: Fifty Flashes of Fearsome Fiction and could certainly recommend it as a bedside companion when you a need a few quick stories before nodding off for the night. Who knows, they may give you some nightmares, and that's always a good thing, right?

Dark Lightning: Fifty Flashes of Fearsome Fiction is available now at

Monday, February 17, 2014

Rose of Sharon and Other Stories - by Gary A. Braunbeck - A wonderful collection of speculative fiction

4 of 5 Stars    Review Copy

Rose of Sharon and Other Stories  is not a collection of horror per se, but does have elements of horror in a number of the stories.  I believe one could best describe this as a work of speculative fiction.  Twenty-Six tales including poetry, flash fiction, shorts and at least one novella make for a very entertaining read.

The book starts off with one of the strongest stories of the collection, "Man With a Canvas Bag." Which also has a killer opening line, "When I was a little boy there lived on our street--four houses down from my family, to be exact--a man who killed his five-year-old-daughter."  Wow.  I was very excited to see where this one was going.

Braunbeck is a skilled writer who is able to take your hand and draw you into the world he's created.  In this story, I could almost smell the autumn leaves.  It brought back memories of burying myself in a big pile of Autumn's finest and jumping out to scare my sister and brothers when I was a kid.  And what man of a certain age didn't have a "shelf full of Aurora monster models" in their room at one time.  But then this sweet story of a beautiful Autumn day quickly turns tragic.  Like a punch in the face when you're not expecting it.

Some of my other favorites were, "Mail-Order Annie," a wonderfully complete story full of charm and a bit of horror.  I also liked, "Aisle of Plenty'" an all too real story on the power of prejudice.  I also enjoyed "In the Lowlands," a look at life as a hobo and a pretty cool story to boot.  Plus, it also had another very strong opening line, "There's an old superstition among hoboes--especially those whose camps are made near the switch yards--that a 'Bo's death is mourned by the whistles of two passing trains; the sounds meet overhead in the night, and though each might me a bit mournful when heard by itself, they combine to create a pleasant song of welcome for the 'Bo's soul as he takes himself that last great freight to Heaven."

Others I enjoyed included, "I Never Spent the Money," which read like an old Twilight Zone episode, "When It is Decided That the War Is Over," that one just blew me away.  And then there's the title piece, "The Rose of Sharon" which all by itself is worth the purchase price.

There is an underlying sweetness to many of Bruanbeck's stories, but that doesn't make them any less potent. Many of his stories take place in the fictional town of Cedar Hill, Ohio.  After a while you start to feel comfortable in that place, as you should.  Just don't get too relaxed.

Rose of Sharon and Other Stories from Creative Guy Publishing is available now both in print and ebook formats from a number of retailers including Amazon .com

I highly recommend a visit to Cedar Hill, Ohio.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Maze - by J. M. McDermott -What a long strage trip...

4 of 5 Stars    Review copy

Having just finished J. M. Mcdermott's epic novel Maze the only thought that comes to mind is the line from the Grateful Dead's classic Truckin' "What a long strange trip it's been."  Some questions come mind that beg to be answered.  "Did I enjoy it?" "Yes."  "Did I understand it?"  "No.  Not at all."

Here's the italicized opening...

My name is Jenny.
  I was in a city inside of a city inside of a city. 
  In the shadows there, I slept.  I knew only my name--nothing else--and nothing, and nothing else for  a very long time.  
  I slid from behind a shadow and a shadow.  I saw you sleeping here. 
  Put me in your lung.
  Breathe deep.

And from there it got weird.

Maze  is a set of four separate, yet interconnected, stories set in a complex world the inhabitants refer to as the Maze.  A place where some people stumble in and never find a way out, yet others are born and live their entire lives there never knowing any other existence.

The Maze is full of monsters.  Gargoyles, minotaurs, trolls, harpies, dogmen, and that's just scratching the surface.  It's a dangerous place with a focus on survival, while living a primitive, tribal existence.

the experience of reading this novel was at times surreal .  In fact there were moments when I thought this must be what it's like to be on a hallucinogenic drug.

The people who live in the Maze were constantly looking for food and a fresh supply of water, but even that wasn't always available.  "Then, before I could talk myself out of it, I drank the water from the sewer.  It tasted like rotten eggs, dirt, and something else indescribably awful.  I choked down the urge to puke.  I expected that this water was going to make me horribly ill--possibly kill me.  I did not drink enough to quench my thirst.  I couldn't."

Bizarre doesn't even begin to describe Maze, but despite the overall strangeness and leaving me with more questions than answers, when I finished the book, I actually found myself wanting more.

Maze is available now in both trade paperback, and various ebook formats, through Apex books and

If you count yourself among the adventurous in your reading selections then I can definitely recommend J. M. McDermottt's Maze.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Northern Soul - by Steven Savile and Steve Lockley - A Jack Stone Thriller

4 of 5 Stars    Review copy

A few weeks back I read Laughing Boys Shadow, an early work from Steven Savile.  This time Steven has teamed up with Scott Lockley for a taste of a series of thrillers the two have concocted featuring a former military bloke named Jack Stone.

Northern Soul is a relatively short novel and a follow-up to the novella, Northern Grit.  It's not really necessary to have read Northern Grit first, but it certainly wouldn't hurt.

Northern Soul is set in familiar territory for a Savile novel; in and around his beloved Newcastle, England.

When an elderly friend is being squeezed by a loan shark, Jack makes a deal to erase the debt if he can find an aging backup singer named, Sindy Nightingale. You see, Nightingale supposedly owes the loan shark big time.  Only, nothing is what it seems and the story is full of twists and turns.

What really made Northern Soul enjoyable for me were the characters in this story, from Jack's war buddy roommate, Danny, to the myriad of criminal types he has to deal with, especially, Robbie, a low life flunky that Jack continuously outwits and inflicts pain on numerous times. 

When all was said and done, the story was entertaining and resolved in a completely satisfying manner.  I wouldn't mind taking up with Jack Stone again somewhere down the road.

Northern Soul is available now from Crossroad Press and and although not my usual horror fare,  I can certainly recommend this one.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

The Dead Lands - A Mockingbird Bay Mystery - by Rick Hautala

5 of 5 Stars.   Review Copy

In March of 2012, Rick Hautala and Joe R. Lansdale were honored with Lifetime Achievement awards at the Bram Stoker banquet in Salt Lake City, an event I watched on Upstream.  It was cool seeing Rick pick up his award, truly excited to be so honored and looking forward to continue doing what he loved to do.  A year later, he died of a heart attack.  That sucked. Fortunately for his legions of fans, Rick had been very productive that last year.  And here we are, nearly a year later with a new Rick Hautala novel from the folks at JournalStone Publishing.

The Dead Lands- A Mocking Bird Bay Mystery is actually two tales woven into one delightful story.  There's Abigail Cummings, dead these last hundred years, but not moved on.  Instead she awakens from her slumber at the sound of the song of the mockingbird to help recently departed spirits come to terms with their own death.  Why hasn't Abby moved on?  Why is she constantly chased by her dead Uncle Wheeler and the hounds of Hell?  In Abby's words, "When I was young, my friends and I used to frighten ouselves by telling ghost stories, now...I guess I am one."

The other story is about, ten year old, Megan McGowen who dies tragically.  Was it an accident or was she murdered?  Abby is there to help Megan learn the truth.

There are some great relationships here, particularly the one between Abby and Megan, as well as the dynamics in Megan's family.

The only downside to The Dead Lands - A Mockingbird Bay Mystery is in what might have been.  It's quite evident that Abby was meant to return in future stories the next time she would hear the mockingbird sing, but sadly the mockingbird will sing no more.

The Dead Lands - A Mockingbird Bay Mystery is available now in Hardcover, Paperback and ebook fomats from JournalStone and from

A totally enjoyable read and highly recommended for all ages.