Friday, May 30, 2014

Dark Father - by James Cooper - Best book I've read so far this year

5 of 5 Stars     Review copy

By far, the best book I've read so far in 2014.  Writer, James Cooper, has crafted an intricate story dealing with the long-term consequences of growing up with a father with a dark side.

In Dark Father, there are three distinct story lines masterfully woven into one of the most disturbing tales I've read in quite a while.

Little Billy loves his father, but Dark Daddy can frighten him at times. When his mommy takes him and leaves daddy, he actually worries about his father.

In another story line, Frank and his wife, Cindy, along with five-year old Jake, have a wonderful live together, but when the unimaginable happens the stress is overwhelming and it's effects on Frank are devastating, leading him to do some terrible things.

Finally, there's Mack, an institutionalized man with a neurological condition which causes him to see his father's face in everyone around him.

Part of the charm of Dark Father is seeing how Cooper brings all of these stories together in the end.  Brilliant in execution, Dark Father will stay with you long after you've finished reading.

Coming in June from Darkfuse, Dark Father will be available as a Limited Edition hardcover, paperback and e-book.  Plus, if you subscribe to Amazon Prime, you can read it for FREE through the Kindle Owner's Lending Library.

Highly recommended.  I'd even go so far as to say, "Don't miss it."

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Lights Out! - by Donald Bain - An elaborate heist thriller

3 of 5 Stars    Review copy

Donald Bain has been a successful writer for more than 25 years, penning Murder She Wrote mysteries for at least that long.  In 2003, when the lights went out, up and down the eastern seaboard, he came up for the idea of Lights Out! and this last year he made a point of finishing the novel.

The end result is the story of Carlton Smythe, a former electrical engineer with Power-Can, a huge Ontario power company.   Smythe devises a scheme to knock out the power grid over a large portion of the east coast.  But  it's not just a plot of revenge, what if you could predict when the power would go out? Would crime bosses be willing to pay for that information and if so, how much?

Smythe is married into money, but wants to leave his wife for an Argentinian beauty, however if he leaves her, he won't get a dime.  He needs his own cash to spend on his new love interest, so together with a current, disgruntled employee at Power-Can, he plans the big event, sells the info on when it will happen to a Toronto mob boss, who then sells the information to other crime bosses, in other cities.  Knowing when the lights will go out can mean big bucks for those with criminal intent.  It seems fool proof.

For the most part, I enjoyed Lights Out! but, it was a little bland.  Everything was so straightforward, very few twists and turns, almost predictable.  The only real surprise csme at the end and even that left mea little disappointed.

Although the official realease date for Lights Out! is June 1st, 2014, I see where it's already availble from Severn House, in a variety of formats, through

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Night Terrors - A Shadow Watch Novel - by Tim Waggoner

5 of 5 Stars    Review copy

Remember the old Dark Rides they used to have at Amusement Parks and traveling carnivals, with names like Spook-A-Rama, Whacky Shack, and Laff in the Dark?  Where you would sit in a car that would roll along a track in the dark and there would be scenes that would pop up and try to scare you?  Well, Night Terrors is a bit like that and just as much fun.

If you suffer from coulraphobia you may want to avoid reading this one.  Don't know what coulraphobia is?  Go ahead and look it up, I'll wait.

Tim Waggoner has gone off the deep end.  Here's a story which starts out with a clown named Jinx on the trail of a rogue incubus going by the name Quietus; from there things get a little strange.  OK, actually, they get quite a bit more than a little strange.

In Night Terrors, Waggoner has created an amazing new universe and he treats it as if it's a playground he's been going to all his life.  He makes it easy to believe what he's made up is totally real.  Why wouldn't the monster that haunts your nightmares become real and why wouldn't the two of you join forces for good or evil?  Why can't there be a secret organization based in a parallel universe?   Well, there are a lot of reasons why not, but it's much more fun to just go along for the ride.

Night Terrors is, by far, the most irrevernt book I've read this year.  The more I read, the crazier the story became and the more I looked forward to whatever bizarre twist Tim Waggoner had for me next.

As you may surmise from the full title, Night Terrors - A Shadow Watch Novel, the book is the first in a new series, but there are no loose ends to leave you hanging, this one is fully self contained.

From Angry Robot books, Night Terrors will be available in a variety of formats on June 5th. If you're looking for some off the wall fun, I can strongly recommend this one.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Irredeemable - by Jason Sizemore - No happy endings here

5 of 5 Stars     Review copy

On his personal website, there's a photo of Jason Sizemore with the following caption, "Jason Sizemore-- Publisher, Editor, Hillbilly."  The hillbilly being a salute to his Kentucky heritage, but there's something missing from that caption.  He should add "Writer" to that description.

Irredeemable is a strong collection of 18 stories running the gamut of speculative fiction, with strengths in Science Fiction and Horror, much like Apex magazine, the mag for which he is publisher and editor.

One of the things I liked about this collection of new, and previously published, shorts is that there isn't a happy ending in sight.  Among this collection of wonderfully strange stories are a Cristmas tale, a story of claustrophobia, snake worshiping, first contact, doomsday, androids and, of course, zombies and much, much more.

irredeemable is a lot like Forrest Gump's box of chocolates.  You never know what you're going to get.

Among my personal favorites is " Plug and Play," where Clayton Edwards is made into a drug mule and kicked off space station 19-YX.  When he falls to Earth,  naked, in an escape pod, the following conversation ensues, "The old woman nodded and pointed a finger at Clayton. ' I thought you looked lost.' ' You would too, lady, if someone flushed you out of a space station.'...'I need a doctor.' ' Of course you do dear.  That's why I'm taking you to my psychiatrist.'  ' You don't understand.  I got two kilos of space mold in my stomach.'  'Dear, why'd you eat so much space mold?'  'I didn't eat it."  Clayton scanned the area for more police officers.  'I'm an involuntary drug mule.'"

It's rare when I can look back at the stories in a collection and say I enjoyed every one of them, but that was certainly true of Irredeemable.  Kudos to Jason Sizemore and Seventh Star Press.

Highly recommended.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Down On the Farm - by Shaun Meeks

4 of 5 Stars    Review copy

Down On the Farm is a new novelette from horror writer Shaun Meeks.  Over the weekend, Shaun posted on Facebook that he was looking for reviews for this piece and since I liked his story "Body Bag" in the anthology Fifty Shades of Decay, I was eager to give it a go.

Nadine grew up on a farm and now works on another farm, but not the kind where they raise crops and livestock, she works on a "Body" farm, staffed with scientists and anthropologists who study cadavers.  One of the newest arrivals isn't decaying properly and there's the story.

The suspense around the one that doesn't do what a normal dead body should do; decay, draw flies, birth maggots, is a slow build as we learn more about the characters who make up this unusual workplace. Eventually, Nadine starts to notice changes in the scientist studying this particular corpse.

Down On the Farm is a fun little monster story.  A quick read for a small price and  is available at, plus you can even get it for FREE, if you have an Amazon Prime membership, through the Kindle Owners Lending Library.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Reaping the Dark - by Gary McMahon -

4 of 5 Stars

A solid opening line, "Magic, like nature, will always find a way."

A crime story with a supernatural twist, in the hands of a skilled writer, results in an entertaining novella, beginning to end.

Reaping the Dark finds Clarke, a getaway driver known in the criminal world as Driver Z, the recipient of a large sum of money as the result of a heist that didn't quite go as expected.

The next morning the TV news put it this way, "Three men were killed last night in what seems to be a gangland shooting incident.  Police suspect that a drug raid took place in the early hours of the morning.  The bodies were found in a building that once served as a Masonic Lodge and became infamous for meetings of the Victorian society The Order of the Darkened Veil--a band of prominent figures who practiced the occult.  One man is said to have escaped the scene on foot.  There were no witnesses..."

Clarke decides to take advantage of his good fortune and getaway himself with his pregnant girlfriend and that's when things go terribly wrong.  There are expected twists and others you just don't see coming.

Anyone can cobble words together and make up a story, but it takes talent to breath life into those words.  Gary McMahon is such a writer.

Reaping the Dark is another great story in Darkfuse Publications novella series, available beginning May 20th through  Plus, if you're a member of Amazon Prime you can borrow it for FREE through the Kindle Owner's Lending Library.

If you've a lover of dark fiction, I can certainly recommend Reaping the Dark.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Ash and Bone - by Lisa Von Biela - Ghost story

3 of 5 Stars

Ash and Bone is an OK ghost story set in the fictional town of Cromwell Bay, California.

Lisa Von Biela's writing shows promise, "The whole town stank of rot. As did his soul.   He'd kept his secret for years.  No one alive knew what really happened that day.  No one had deprived him of the spoils of his acts.  Whatever remorse he'd felt at the time had been tucked away so thoroughly he couldn't recall it at all."

My problem with this novella is its predictability and seemingly forced story.  The circumstances are just too convenient and the characters are one dimensional.

Ash and Bone is available now from Darkfuse Publications through  If you have an Amazon Prime membership you can read it for FREE through the Kindle Owner's Lending Library.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Cold In July - by Joe R. Lansdale - Read it before you see the movie

5 of 5 Stars    Review copy

While it's true I haven't read all of Joe R. Lansdale's books, I've read enough to know I love his stuff.  Whether he's being serious or off the wall, there's always a level of believably in his stories.

I guess you could call Cold In July a crime novel, but it certainly has elements of horror.  Not monster horror.  Real horror.  The horror we read about in the newspaper or watch on the nightly news.  The kind of horror that makes any sane person ask, "How could someone do something like that?"

It all starts with a noise in the night.  An intruder.  As a reader I am drawn into the story immediately.  It seems pretty straight forward, but...what if?  That's something Joe R. Lansdale is very good at, taking a story in unexpected directions.  I found myself asking what if that happened to me, what would I do, and the answers made me uncomfortable.

Cold In July  has some memorable characters, Richard Dane and his wife Ann, ex-con Ben Russel and especially P.I. Jim Bob Luke.  Each with their own distinct identities and personalities drawn to perfection from the author's mind.  Plus, I believe Lansdale is one of the best at writing a conversation.  Here's an example between Dane and Jim Bob Luke...

"You're a lucky man, Dane.  Got a family.  Someone to care about you.  I got what I do and the red Bitch--and it's got a dent in it."
"You got pigs."
"Yeah, but every now and then I eat them, so it's hard to form any kind of relationship.  I don't think they trust me."

In the Afterword, Joe R. Lansdale says, "No novel has ever come to me more full-blown than Cold In July." The end result is a perfect story, well-told, start to finish.  I enjoyed every word.

Cold In July is being re-released by Tachyon Publications in tandem with the new film being released in theaters on May 23rd. 2014.  The film stars Michael C. Hall (Dexter) as Richard Dane, Sam Shepard as Ben Russel and Don Johnson as Jim Bob Luke.  Having read the book, I definitely want to see the movie, but by all means read the book first.

Strongly recommended.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Jade Sky - by Patrick Freivald - A Matt Rowley novel and a genre bending winner

4 of 5 Stars    Review copy

A great opening line will get your attention, draw you in, and make you want to know everything about what you're about to get yourself into as a reader.  "Blood rained from the ceiling." And I'm hooked.

Jade Sky, the new novel from Patrick Freivald, gets right to the action with ICAP (the International Council on Augmented Phenomena) engaged in battle, fighting to control a super drug called Jade and the spread of Gerstner technologies.

"ICAP agents walked the line between Captain America and Bane and were the only law enforcement capable of hunting down other augs."  Augs are "augmented" individuals, and the reason ICAP agents where so good at hunting down other augs is because the agents themselves had augmented powers. Think X-Men where you get to choose what powers you get.

It took me a little while to get into Jade Sky, but once I got comfortable with what was going on, I settled in and enjoyed the experience.  Kind of like and old-school roller-coaster where you get slowly pulled to the crest of the first peak and then there's the rush of adrenaline that carries you from that first drop right through to the end of the ride.  Just like a great coaster, there are plenty of twists and turns, too.  Everytime, I though I had an idea where the author was going, BAM, another twist.

Jade Sky is part action-adventure, part horror, part sci-fi and part urban fantasy, all woven into a very enjoyable story.  I could see myself in the theater watching this on the big screen, chewing on some popcorn.

Jade Sky is from the team at Journalstone Publishing  who have been releasing some great product in recent years and is scheduled for publication on May 16th, in a variety of formats. Check their website for details or you can purchase from


Sunday, May 11, 2014

Queen and Other Stories - by Lincoln Crisler

4 of 5 Stars      Review copy

Queen and Other Stories is an enjoyable collection of fifteen stories of pure speculative fiction, from horror to sci-fi and occasionally blending the genres.  There's even a zombie tale.

First up was "D.T.F."  Quick, what's the acronym?  That's OK, I didn't know either.  I had to look it up in the Urban Dictionary. You're going to have to look it up too, if you don't already know. Good story, nice twist, and one of the best lines in the book from the story's protagonist, Billy.  "The force is strong he thought, one of Evan's sayings.  The new guy at the factory was always quoting the captain of the Enterprise or some such."

The stories that follow have zombies, curses, vampires, cannibalism, super heroes, a ghost bank robber, time travelers, and more.  A truly diverse collection from a fresh voice in speculative fiction.

Lincoln closes the collection with the novella, "Queen," which seamlessly blends science fiction and horror, and will make you think twice before signing up for any medical studies.

If you've not read Lincoln Crisler previously, Queen and Other Stories is the perfect introduction to get a feel for his storytelling skills.  If you have read his work before, you may want to review the Table of Contents, as many of these stories have been published previously.

Queen and Other Stories is available now for the Kindle through


Thursday, May 8, 2014

Of Devils and Deviants - Edited by Adam Millard

4 of 5 Stars    Review copy

Of Devils and Deviants is one of those rare anthologies where every story manages to fully embody the overall theme of the work.  The result is an erotic romp through nearly every deviant behavior imaginable.

Sex-bots, cannibalism, necrophilia.  No taboo is off-limits, even sex with conjoined twins.  While it's true that some stories were superior to others, there really were no bad stories.  Oh, wait, of course there were bad stories, what I mean is some were just better than others.

Among my favorites were, "Our Love," by Claude Lalumiere,  delightful story of a couple who would keep their love in a box for safe keeping, God forbid they should lose their love. "The Middle Leg," by Ralph Robert Moore, a twisted tale of sexual encounters with a conjoined twin who really doesn't get along with her sister.  And then there's "The Mummy's Curves," by Ken MacGregor, a story about an archeologist with a very unusual fetish.

Although, Of Devils and Deviants won't appeal to everyone, if you enjoy erotica ,with a touch of horror, you really ought to give this anthology a try.  Some of the stories are dark, some are violent, many are sexual, and all of them are deviant.

A nice bonus to the stories within are the beautiful illustrations Chris Taggart provided for every story in the anthology.

From Crowded Quarantine Publications, Of Devils and Deviants is available now in a variety of formats from the publisher's website and  Plus, if you are an Amazon Prime member, you can read this one for FREE through the Kindle Owner's Lending Library.

If you're looking for a hot read crank up the AC and pick up Of Devils and Deviants today.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Path of the Dead (Hungry Ghosts - Book 1) - by Timothy Baker - If you like you zombie fare with a bit more bite. This one's for you.

5 of 5 Stars    Review copy

Timothy Baker's first published novel, Path of the Dead (Hungry Ghosts - Book 1) is much more than what you might expect.  I'd go as far as to call this a literate zombie tale.  Sure it's got zombies which can always make for a fun read, but it's also got a wonderful story of Buddhist monks, friendship and overcoming obstacles.

There is conflict between the spiritual views of the monks and the young Chinese soldier who is there as a protector and there is coming of age story of a young man who has lost so much.  It all comes together in a story rich in legend and imagination.

Center to the tale is young Chodren Dawa who is already morning the loss of his sister, only to find her alive again, sort of.  I think you might know where this is going.  Although there are zombies in Path of the Dead, and Baker does a good job of bringing the dead to life, that's not the story here.

Just a piece of the writing you'll find within, " of the day and night swept over Chodren like a blastng winter's wind.  What had been a peaceful village life among friends and family had been forever ripped away by Heaven or Hell's horrific vengeance.  No more would he play soccer in the sunlit fields, no more would he listen to his mother's nightly songs of sleep, or feel his father hug and smile against his cheek, and neither would he laugh with his sister as they played and jostled through seemingly endless, care-free days.  The world had changed, unrecognizable as an alien planet, gone, never to return, his childhood finished in one day.  What was to become of him?  Would he spend his remaining days with running, fighting, blood , and death?"  Not your typical zombie fare.

Although a compete story by itself, you can tell by the title there is more to come and I am certainly looking forward to Book 2 in the Hungry Ghost series.

Path of the Dead  is available now from Ragnarok Publications through

If you like you zombie stories with a bit more bite, this one's for you.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Snow Globe - by Aaron Gudmunson - As if a blizzard isn't scary enough

4 of 5 Stars    Review copy

Snow Globe starts with the best opening paragraph I've read this year, "They came with the snow, or else they brought it with them.  I'm not clear on that point yet.  It doesn't really matter.  What matters is they came."  That one sentence says it all.  End of review.

Just kidding about the end of review part.  Benjamin Clary stops by his favorite watering hole before heading home to his wife.  Just for a quick one before the snow starts.  This will prove to be the worst decision of his life.

Before you know it, the snow comes and comes hard, "Outside the snow fell fast and furious in flakes the size of quarters.  Looking out past the two Christmas pines into the field, you'd think we were living in a snow globe.  Pretty as a picture.  Our breath steamed, wisping away like banished spirits."

With the snow comes something deadly, killing those who try to leave and trapping the others inside.  Soon, however, there's unrest inside the bar that could prove to be just as deadly as the horror in the snow.

There are times when it looks like no one will survive the ordeal and there is certainly no happy ending to the tale, but the story is compelling and the twists are unexpected.

Snow Globe has been re-released with a new cover as seen above and is available now from from Angelic Knight Press, the new horror imprint of Ragnarok Publications, and can be purchased through