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...
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."
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."
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."
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."
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."
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."
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."
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."
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."
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."
2014 was a great year and I'm looking forward to 2015. Here's to good reading.
Monday, December 29, 2014
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
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
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.
Monday, December 15, 2014
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.
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.
Saturday, December 13, 2014
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
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
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.
Sunday, December 7, 2014
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 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.