Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Dancing With Demons - by Lori Handeland - A Phoenix Chronicles Novella

4 of 5 Stars

Finally...another story in the Phoenix Chronicles series.  It's been 4 years since Lori Handeland gave us anything in this world.  Not fair, especially with the fate of the world left hanging at the end of Apocalypse Happens.

Granted, Dances With Demons, does little to resolve any of those loose ends, but it does mean the Phoenix Chronicles are at least on the author's mind.  Maybe there's hope for more in the future.

Anyone who reads my reviews with regularity will likely wonder why I'm reading this type of book.  Actually, I always feel like I just came from an "Adult" book store when I'm finished, but aside from the sex, of which there is plenty, I happen to enjoy the creatures in Lori's stories.

In Dances With Demons, minor character, Susan Murphy takes center stage.  Susan is BFF with Liz Phoenix, leader of the light, who is off trying to keep the apocalypse from happening.

The author often embues her characters with just the right amount of snarkiness.  For example,  "...then turned to face my mother-in-law, a woman who did not look in any way like she answered to the sweet granny name of Mam.  If I hadn't wanted to keep on her good side, I would have been tempted to address her as Cruella.  Not that she'd skinned any puppies lately, though I wouldn't put it past her."

I'm not going to delve into the plot here, let's just say it's a pretty good mix of monsters and softcore porn and leave it at that.

Dances With Demons is available now in paperback and for the Kindle at  If enough of us pick this up, perhaps it will encourage the author to get to work on another full length book in the Phoenix Chronicles series.  I can dream, can't I?

By the way, this novella works OK as a stand alone story, but I recommend reading the entire series.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Ghosts of Punktown - by Jeffrey Thomas - Sci-Fi horror at it's finest

5 of 5 Stars    Review copy

Punktown has been very good to author, Jeffrey Thomas, with five novels and three other collections of shorts, all set in the Punktown universe.

For the uninitiated, Punktown is "a city on the planet Oasis, built by colonists from Earth upon a small town belonging to the indigenous people, the Choom.  Punktown, famous for it's mix of races from other worlds, even other dimensions--and infamous for it's high level of crime."

Even though this was my first visit to Punktown, I quickly found myself totally immersed in the amazing world Jeffrey Thomas has created and his skillful prose makes the experience completely enjoyable.  "These days she was only too aware of what went on in the streets that wound like streams through gorges of towering stone."

The stories in the collection were quite diverse and brilliantly imagined.  I was particularly intrigued by "Disfigured," where, in a world where everyone can be perfect, it becomes common practice to have cosmetic surgery to add deformities.

Ghosts of Punktown is available, from Dark Regions press, in lettered and limited edition formats and though for the Kindle.  Plus, if you're an Amazon Prime member you can borrow it for FREE through the Kindle Owner's Lending Library.

Highly recommended and an excellent introduction to the world of Punktown.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Davey Ribbon - by Matthew Tait

5 of 5 Stars    Review copy

Australia is home to a robust community of horror writers and Matthew Tait is making his mark among them and in the overall world of the horror genre.  His previous works include a piece on a Heaven's Gate type cult called, Slander Hall, and Dark Meridian, book one of a mysteroius house involving aliens and more.  Both worth checking out.

Matthew's newest novel, Davey Ribbon begins forty-five years ago, when farmer, Reginald Avery molests and kills eleven-year-old Sarah Capeshaw.  Thirteen-year-old David Ribera has the misfortune to stumble upon the crime scene.  Davey is retarded as they would say all those years ago.  His mother owns a shop in town where she makes ribbons which Davey wears on his belt leading to the nickname Davey Ribbon.  By the end of the encounter Davey is left for dead.

During the decades that follow, the story of Davey Ribbon becomes an urban legend. Something told at slumber parties and around campfires in the community of Cyclone Cove, a place where radical Christians and Azarcheal Sytems Conglomerate seem to be lead by different aspects of Davey' s spirit.

Then there's Norman Perks, who works to keep the tale alive.  "Norman did not have friends.  He was, after all, a writer.  An observer and not a participant.  Behind the curtain, so-to-speak.  To comingle with the actors on the stage would be a deceit on his part.  He wasn't a very good actor, so they would cotton on immediately.  No, better to do what the muse wanted of him: that was, to sketch in story-form the tales of Cyclone Cove.  To catalogue, to coerce, and to sometimes manipulate."

In a plot as tangled as the ribbons flowing from Davey Ribbon's hands, Matthew Tait takes the reader on a roller coaster ride through the secrets of Cyclone Cove.  All will be revealed by the story's climatic end.  I believe Davey Ribbon Is Matthew Tait' s best work to date, a page-turner from start to finish.

From HodgePodge Press, Davey Ribbon Is available now in paperback and for the Kindle through  Plus, right now, if you're a member of Amazon Prime, you can borrow it for FREE through the Kindle Owners' Lending Library.

Highly recommended.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Joe Ledger: Special Ops - by Jonathan Maberry

4 of 5 Stars    Review copy

Joe Ledger: Special Ops is a collection of short stories set in the same world as Jonathan Mayberry' s popular series of Joe Ledger novels, currently at six and more on the way.

For the uninitiated, Captain Joe Ledger is a former Baltimore cop and Army Ranger who was recruited by the Department of Military Sciences, a team of special operators charged with combating terrorists in possession of cutting-edge bioweapons.

The eleven stories in this collection cover everything from just before Patient Zero to just before Code Zero the newest Joe Ledger novel.

If you're already a fan of the series, here's a chance to catch some of the shorts you may have missed.  If you're not already reading the Joe Ledger novels you can get a feel for what all the excitement is about, but be forewarned, there are a few spoilers for the main novels.

Jonathan does a nice job of providing a chronology of where each tale falls in the Joe Ledger universe.  In addition, there is a complete listing of all the stories to date showing where they fit into the overall timeline.

Maberry' s characters are alive with dialogue that scream realism.  Wonderful opening lines like, "The world keeps trying to kill me" and fun lines like, "That ship has sailed and it hit an iceberg."

All of the stories are very entertaining.  A must for all Joe Ledger fans, with just the right blend of action and snarky dialogue.

Joe Ledger: Special Ops is available now in a variety of formats from JorrnalStone and


Monday, April 21, 2014

No Sympathy For the Wicked - by Joseph Albert King

4 of 5 Stars    Review copy

No Sympathy For the Wicked has been described as "Goodfellas meets Pulp Fiction meets Casino meets Get Shorty" and after reading this one I'd have to agree with that assessment.

Although the cover is a bit misleading (there are no nightmarish demons found between the pages of this book, unless you include the personal demons found inside mobsters, bad cops, good cops and the rest of us).  The events in No Sympathy For the Wicked take place in the real world of Las Vegas and Atlantic City.

Told in three separate, but totally connected stories, the author does an excellent job of building believable characters, imbuing them with personalities and traits consistent with their roles in the story.

People like Bernie, the loser junkie, who with his imaginary fiend/alter-ego Bar None, has made enemies of all the wrong people on both sides of the law.  I loved it when he shows up at his dealer's house and decides to break in, only to discover he's on the wrong street.

Then, there's his mother, Bridgette "Lulu" Bardot, a retired prostitute and the amazing backstory where we learn the identity of Bernie's father.  Believe me, no taboo is off limits for author, James Albert King.

Central to all three tales is Mark Rico, formerly from Atlantic City, who's been granted immunity from Federal prosecution for favors rendered, providing he never returns.  Rico is a ruthless killer and a change in location has not lead to a change of heart.

No Sympathy For the Wicked was the most fun I've had this year reading outside the horror genre.  One I can certainly recommend.  No Sympathy For the Wicked is available now from Visionary Press Collaborative through

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Deceiver - by Kelli Owen - This one's special to me

5 of 5 Stars     Review copy

Imagine my surprise when I read the following line in this novella's acknowledgements.  "...Frank Errington for the use of his name~sorry." What!?

I first met Kelli when I attended Horrible Saturday at the York Emporium a few Summers ago and again the following year at the same venue.  I picked up a couple of novellas that first July and have been reading and reviewing her books ever since.  I just checked, this is the seventh time I've reviewed one of her works and I've bought every one until this one, which I got through NetGalley to provide a review.

I keep coming back to her work for a couple of reasons.  One, I like the fact that she's a Pennsylvania writer.  Having lived in the state for most of my life, I just like to see others in the Commonwealth doing well.  Then, there's Kelli herself, a spitfire personality in a small package with a big heart.  But, most importantly, Kelli is an excellent writer.  No matter how crazy the overall story, there's always that element of truth that makes it totally believable.

In her latest novella, Deceiver, Kelli tells the story of grieving widower, Matt Newman.  His wife Tania was recently murdered while traveling on business.  Matt discovers a journal among her luggage and learns of a secret life.  Was his wife really the woman he thought she was, or is she something he never even imagined.

Deceiver shows the reader what happens when you assume.  Again and again.  Leading to a very satisfying ending.

Deceiver will be published for the Kindle in June of 2014 and is available now for pre-order from

Of course, I recommend this one.  I'm in the freakin' story.

Screaming to Get Out & Other Wailings of the Damned by J. F. Gonzalez - A totally entertaining collection of Horror

5 of 5 Stars

First, let me say JF is part of a group of central Pennsylvania genre writers I've grown to love and greatly respect, even if he yearns to return to California sunshine someday.

Readers may be familiar with JF from his collaborations on the popular Clickers series, first with the late Mark Williams and more recently with Brian Keene.

Screaming to Get Out is a collection of brilliant shorts written and published over the last fifteen years.  Each one different in concept and written with skill and talent, delivering a highly entertaining package for the reader.

If you've never read J. F. Gonzalez, you would be doing yourself a big favor by picking up this sampling of his work.  Inside you'll find thirteen tales to keep you up at night, starting with "Laura," the story of a mother dealing with a father hiding from the police after attempting to kill his son because he believes he's a monster.  Nice twist, which seems to be an earmark in JF' s stories.

I'm not going to list all of the pieces in the collection, I'll let you discover them for yourself, but a couple of my favorites include, "After Nightfall," which has that Twilight Zone feel to it. A couple takes a back roads shortcut on their way to Denver and stumble on a little town stuck in the past.  They can't wait to get out of town...and then.

There's even a Clickers story called, "Captivity" set at a horror con. Good stuff.

It all wraps up nicely with, "Breaking Point," where a former gangbanger is pulled over by the cops and as the one officer starts to beat on him he ends up turning the tables and takes the policemen hostage.  A great "what if" story.

A couple of items worth noting.  EVERY story in the collection is solid, there are no clunkers.  And, JF provides a bit of history on each story before the next one starts.

Screaming to Get Out is available now for the Kindle at and is one I can strongly recommend.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Dämoren - by Seth Skorkowsky - First book in the Valducan urban fantasy series

5 of 5 Stars    Review copy

The story begins with 11-year old Spencer Mallory surviving an attack in his home by a group of monsters that kill the rest of his family.  He's saved by a demon hunter named Clay Mercer who wields a special weapon named Dämoren.

Years later, Spencer, now known as Matt Hollis, has become a demon Hunter himself, bonded with Dämoren.  As if his life isn't strange enough, he gets the following letter...

Dear Mr. Hollis,

As you can see, we have been aware of you for some time.  While we have always made it a point not to interfere with your activities, developments have arisen that have forced our hand into contacting you.

The letter was from the Valducans, a group of demon-hunting knights who find and keep track of all holy weapons and whose library of demon species and lore is massive. A group that Matt was already aware of and that he believed wanted him dead.

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.

Dämoren is available now from Ragnarok Publications through

If you love urban fantasy, you'll certainly enjoy Dämoren.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

I Am the New God - by Nicole Cushing - Delightfully disturbing

5 of 5 Stars    Review copy

Darkfuse Publishers continues to put out some of the best dark fiction available for today's market and they've done so once again with this novella from Nicole Cushing.

I Am the New God tells the strange story of two, young, disturbed individuals who become inexplicably linked, with one as a heirophant and the other, the object of his instruction and adoration.

OK, allow me to save you the trouble of having to look up the word heirophant.  It is an interpreter of ancient mysteries and arcane principles.  In this story, it's one who is tasked with encouraging a new god in preparation for his becoming.

Hard to tell which of the two primary characters is more crazy, the heirophant who believes he's in communication with, and following in the footsteps of, John the Baptist or the young man he is trying to metamorphose.

The author does a great job of allowing the reader to see that even though the premise of her story may be out there, given the circumstances this is entirely plausible and the outcome is believable and inevitable.

I Am the New God is available now from Darkfuse, for the kindle, at and, if you are an Amazon Prime member, you can read it for FREE through the Kindle Lending Library.

Strongly recommended.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

All the Devils - by Harry Shannon & Stephen W. Booth - Non-stop action

5 of 5 Stars    Review copy

From a quote from William Shakespeare's The Tempest - Act 1, Scene 2.  "Hell is empty and all the devils are here."

For the last few years, I've been reading zombie stories from Harry Shannon & Stephen W. Booth and loving every minute of it.  If you've never read the 5 books in the Penny Miller series, The Hungry, you should make plans to correct that soon.

Now, without the help of any undead, these same two writers have teamed up to give us the fast-paced, adventure thrill-ride that is All the Devils.

The underlying premise for this story is straight from today's headlines.  Genetically modified foods are certainly big business, but big enough to kill a sitting U. S. Congressman to insure passage of a bill to allow the fictional Montrose Corporation to use genetically altered corn?

Congressional aide, Carrie Young, is not who she seems to be, but then neither is the office janitor.  Together, they are running from the authorities and those responsible for the Congressman's death while trying to learn exactly what is going on.

Filled with believable, yet frightening characters, All the Devils is like a shot of adrenaline to a tired body.  A page turner from beginning to end.  There are more twists and turns than a back country road and a surprise ending I should have seen coming, but didn't.

Generally, thrillers are not my favorite genre, but with the writers involved in this project, I decided to take a chance and I'm very glad I did.  I think if you give it a shot, you might like it as well.

From Genius Book Publishing, All the Devils is available now through

Highly recommended.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Jamaica Vu: The Strange Among the Familiar (issue one) - Magazine

5 of 5 Stars

I don't recall what it was that drew me to the website for this new dark fiction magazine, but I owe a debt of gratitude to whomever or whatever led me to that page.

Jamaica Vu: The Strange Among the Familiar (issue one), has a nice mix of "dark fiction, poetry, truthful morsels, criticism, and more."

Seven original stories from established writers and newcomers alike.  I particularly enjoyed the lead story from Gary A. Bruanbeck.  "Photo Caption" is a compelling and horrific tale of a man just trying to do the best for his family, cleverly told as captions in a photo album.  Another standout is "Video Nasties" from Max Booth III.  A wickedly good tale, loosely based an a true story, which just makes it that much more terrifying.

Jamaica Vu: The Strange Among the Familiar is off to an excellent start and if the editors continue to deliver the same quality storytelling they packed into the first issue, it should be around for years to come.  I liked it so much, I spent more money on issue two, which just came out for the Kindle today.

Jamaica Vu: The Strange Among the Familiar (issue one) is published by Post Mortem Press and is available in both print and ebook formats.

Highly recommended.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Rogue - by Greg F. Gifune

5 of 5 Stars    Review copy

I don't believe there's any writer who better captures a descent into madness than Greg F. Gifune.

In Rogue we meet Cameron Horne, a thirty-something man, happy with his life and his job at the Office of Public Safety and Security in the Commonweath of Massachusetts.

But, recently, Cam has been awakened every morning by a car alarm from the other side of the wooded area behind his home and then he meets a mysterious young man in his back yard. From there things get stranger by the day.  He is placed on paid leave from his job when a complaint about his treatment of a client leads to an investigation.  He thinks he might be going insane, but is that really what's happening, or could it be something even worse, something more sinister.  And just who is Zeke?

Sometimes unsettling, occasionally disturbing and a few times totally disgusting, Rogue is one of the best stories I've read in 2013. 

Coming in May from Darkfuse Publications, Rogue will be available as a Limited edition Hardcover, Paperback and in ebook formats.  If you want, you can pre-order now through

Highly recommended.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Shots of Terror - Edited by Stacey Turner and Clint Collins -A companion to the forthcoming anthology Demon Rum

4 of 5 Stars

Demon Rum  is an anthology I've been looking forward to since it's announcement back in 2013, for a couple of reasons.  First, because the folks at Angelic Knight Press do such a great job of selecting submissions and in particular, because I really liked the theme with this one.

Seems there were more good pieces submitted than the editors could use for the main anthology and, as a result, we are given this companion collection, A Shot of Terror.

No big names in this mini-anthology of alcohol induced terror, but the writing is above average and there is not a bad story in the bunch.

I particularly liked the first selection, "The Wild Hunt" by Tina Callaghan.  Set in an Irish pub, there are three strangers who come in from the cold.  The whisky the one orders goes right through him, literally.  Yes, I do know the proper usage if the word literally.  "They want the souls of the dying, which would be me, and they want the souls of those in despair, which would be any or all of us, I'd say. They'll take a happy soul too if they get the chance, but they're drawn to the other kind.  Vultures really."

"Scrumpy Making In the West Country" by Stephen Gepp was fun, if somewhat predictable. And I thought "The Merry Green Widows of Waterman's Inn" by Rachel Anding was a nice way to wrap up the collection.  Rachel's prose was especially enjoyable.  "Chadwick Krane slipped his moleskin sketchpad along with a handful of stubby pencils into the pocket of his messenger bag which he lowered carefully into the rowboat.  Pungent oders of decomposing swamp matter and pre-storm ozone filled his nostrils."  Certainly paints the picture, doesn't it?

Shots of Terror is a great setup for Demon Rum and is available now from Angelic Knight Press through

Highly recommended and please read responsibly.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Biters/The Reborn - Harry Shannon/Brett J. Talley - Two tales of post apocalyptic life

4 of 5 Stars    Review copy

This is the fourth entry into the successful doubledown series of books from Journalstone Publishing.  The idea is to combine the work of an established writer with a relative newcomer in a single volume. This time it's life after the apocalypse.

FIrst up is Biters from Harry Shannon who knows a thing or two about zombies.  His series featuring Sheriff Penny Miller, The Hungry, co-written with Stephen W. Booth, just released its fifth book, All Hell Breaks Loose, and there are more on the way.

In Biters, Harry tells the story of a man who would like nothing more than to recapture a bit of his life from before.  It's a simple tale of choices and the results of those decisions...with Zombies.  I recently came to the conclusion that the best zombie stories are those where there is a solid story without zombies which is just made better with zombies.  Much the way any meal is made better with bacon.  Biters is such a story.

The second book in this doubledownf release is The Reborn. Set in a post apocalyptic future, the primary storyline deals with the capacity to determine DNA strands which lead to the rebirth of killers and then eliminating the threat before they can be reborn.

"It was the Kensington paper that changed everything, the Kensington paper that ushered in a new era for mankind, the Kensington paper that shook to their very foundations religion, politics, government, and philosophy.  For it was the Kensington paper that first hypothesized the existence of The Reborn."  This lead to the Warren-Rostov act which "declared The Reborn -- those who had been murders, rapists, or worse -- unworthy of life, making it unlawful to give birth to such a person."

I found the story of The Reborn to be imaginative and enjoyable, but I was left scratching my head over all of the additional storylines involving Khan, a charismatic leader rising in China, the limited nuclear exchange between China and the US, and the ensuing chaos.  For me, none of that added anything to the tale.  But, that's just my opinion.

Overall, Journalstone Publications has delivered another entertaining book in their doubledown series and I ceratinly look forward to the next.

Biters/The Reborn is scheduled for release on April 11, 2014 and is available now for pre-order fron the Journalstone website and  The book will be available in both print and ekectronic formats.