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  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


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  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

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  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 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  If you subscribe to Kindle Unlimited, you can read this one at no additional charge.


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


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.


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 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.