Thursday, April 30, 2015

The Ghoul Archipelago - by Stephen Kozeniewski - A zombie feast that didn't quite satisfy

3 of 5 Stars     Review copy

I love zombies, some of you may already be aware of this, and for that reason it was difficult for me to only give this read 3 Stars.

A couple months back, I was approached by author Stephen Kozeniewski to read The Ghoul Archipelago and provide an honest review.  As soon as I heard it was a post apocalyptic zombie novel, I was in.

After a rather slow start, the pace did pick up, but for me the story never really came together.  I found the multiple story lines to be a bit confusing at times. The overall effect was a fractured story for me.

The writing was good, sometimes it was even great, but there was so much to the story. Zombies, pirates, virtual sex-drives, a crazed religious leader, and  a maniacal military man. All great story-lines, but it just seemed to spread everything a little thin.  In a way The Ghoul Archipelago was a bit like going to an all-you-can-eat buffet and pigging out, only to regret it later.

The Ghoul Archipelago is available now in both paperback and ebook formats from Severed Press and through  If you subscribe to Kindle Unlimited you can read this one at no additional charge and if you are an Amazon Prime member you can borrow it as your monthly selection through the Kindle Owners Lending Library.

If you're a die hard zombie fan, you may want to read this book and I'm glad I read it, but I can't honestly give it my recommendation.

Monday, April 27, 2015

After Midnight - by Allan Leverone - A very effective story and an enjoyable read

4 of 5 Stars     Review copy

After Midnight is one of those sequels where reading the first book is completely optional, but if you're an individual who must read the first book first, it's called, Mr. Midnight and it's still available as an ebook from Darkfuse Publishers through

Alan Leverone has done a very nice job of giving the reader the salient points from book 1 to make reading After Midnight a complete stand-alone novel.

Central to the story is a special family, where generations of twins have had a tendency to end with one twin killing the other. To prevent this from happening, Virginia Ayers gave up her twins at birth, but fate would bring them all together again, with terrifying consequences.

"There was nothing more beautiful in this world as far as Milo Cain was concerned than observing the effects of a razor-sharp blade slicing into human flesh."

The twins, separated at birth, Milo Cain and Caitlyn Connelly are at odds.  There may be 1500 miles between them, with Milo in a coma caused by a cataclysmic event that occurred when they finally came face to face six months ago, but that is just the beginning.

After Midnight was hard to read, and I mean that in the best possible way.  Disturbing, leaving the characters and the reader with a feeling of complete helplessness.  An interesting. original story, well-executed.  The writing is crisp and clean, the pacing is dead on, brisk when needed and more deliberate when appropriate.

Allan is one of those skilled writers who manages to say just the right thing at the end of every chapter to cause the reader to turn the page and think maybe one one before I turn out the light and go to sleep and then one more, until sleep wins out despite the desire to continue.

I did feel the story became a bit repetitive at times, but overall a very effective story and an enjoyable read.

After Midnight is available now, in both Paperback and ebook formats, from Darkfuse Publications through  If you subscribe to Kindle Unlimited you can read this selection at no additional charge and if you are an Amazon Prime member you can make this one your monthly selection.

Definitely recommended.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Out of the Woods - by William D. Carl - A modern day Lovecraftian tale

4 of 5 Stars     Review copy

One of the best prologues I've ever read.  It's like a personal note from the author and ends with...

"I hope you don't just shrug this off as some sort of creature feature to be read under the covers with a flashlight on a dark and stormy night.

I hope you believe me.

Please, believe me."

While the writing was not the best, it didn't really matter. Reading Out of the Woods was akin to watching a B movie, not great cinema, it's not going to win any awards, but it is certainly a lot of fun.

St. Michael's Hospital for Mental Illness has seen better days.  Because of all the leaks in the roof, they don't even use the third floor of the facility anymore.  Rather than spend the tax-payers money to repair the building, it makes more sense to close the old hospital and move it's patients to other locations.

Right before the big move, an emergency results in the arrival of a new patient ranting about monsters only he sees and something about an old god.

Although, Lovecraftian in nature, I found Out of the Woods to be original and suitably creepy.  At times a bit gory, which is fine by me, and there were some very well constructed scenes.  Not the best Lovecraft inspired work I've read this year, but it was an enjoyable read.

Out of the Woods is available now, as both an ebook and in paperback, from Post Mortem Press and can be purchased through


Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Residue - by Steve Diamond - Book One in the Jack Bishop YA horror series

3 of 5 Stars     Review Copy

Jack Bishop's father has gone missing.  The fact that his disappearance coincides with an incident involving something that escaped from Helix, the town's principle employer, where both jack and his father work, is no coincidence.

Residue is a YA novel that is a bit simplistic for my taste.  I prefer my horror with a bit more bite.  Not to say there's no violence, there is.  There's even a good bit of death, but I feel somewhat shielded from most of it.

The characters are a bit one-dimensional and the monsters are not very well fleshed out.

The good news would be the overall story.  There are some good ideas here, but it seems evident that this is a first novel and there is a lot of room for growth.  It looks like Steve Diamond will get a chance at that growth as there is a sequel in the works.

Residue is the latest offering from Angelic Knight Press, the horror imprint of Ragnarok Publications. As such, I'm a bit disappointed as I'm used to a higher standard from both of these outlets.  I just hope that future installments will offer more to sink my teeth into.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Black Tide - by Patrick Freivald - The second Matt Rowley novel left me wanting more and there's more on the way

4.5 of 5 Stars     Review copy

Three years ago I started reading an up-and-coming horror writer by the name of Patrick Freivald.  An interesting guy who happens to be a High School teacher, a robotics coach, and a bee-keeper, yet still finds the time to write compelling fiction.

Patrick's first two novels were YA zombie books about Ani Romero, a normal sixteen-year-old girl with a secret.  She's a zombie.  Twice Shy and  Special Dead  are still two of my favorite zombie books.  It's a world I'd love to see Patrick get back to, someday.  (Hint, hint).

I can see why it might be difficult to get back to Ani's story since Patrick's muse has taken him into the world of Matt Rowley a character who hasn't been human for years.  A commando for ICAP, the International Council and Augmented Phenomena, he hunts down superhuman monsters the military can't handle.  Book 1,  Jade Sky, was published last Spring, and Black Tide is it's sequel.

Black Tide, is very close to a perfect novel.  A compelling story with a flawed hero, surrounded by richly crafted characters who are just as imperfect as Matt.

Chapter 1 would have made a fitting climax in any SF adventure novel, but in Black Tide, it was just the beginning.

There are significant changes for book 2 in the Matt Rawley series.  "Matt found himself without rank, command, or superiors.  His reassignment to the Department of Homeland Security's newly created Special Threats Bureau came with no mission and no directives, but a shiny new ID badge that might get him out of speeding tickets.  As the only Aug left in the world, the UN, NATO, and the United States never ran out of things 'only he' could do."

There is plenty of violence and some pretty horrific stuff goes down, but when Matt takes vengeance on the bad guys and girls, it feels so good.

There are some genuine, "Oh, wow!" moments here and the end is the perfect setup for the next book in the series, which can't come soon enough.

My favorite quote from Black Tide, comes from Matt Rawley.  "I kill to protect my family, my town, my country.  I kill bad people when they need killing."

Black Tide is available now in a variety of ebook formats and paperback from JournalStone through their website.  Book 1 in the Matt Rawley series is recommended reading, but not required.

I can highly recommend this series and anything written by its author.


Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Haven (The Breadwinner Trilogy Book 2) - by Stevie Kopas - A well-written second book in this zombie series

4 of 5 Stars     Review copy

Book two in The Breadwinner Trilogy is an entertaining sequel to The Breadwinner released a month ago, by Permuted Press.

In Haven, the rag-tag group of survivors get off the boat and take up residence in The Emerald City, a resort located in the fictional town of Haven, Florida.

After clearing out the undead and making their new home defensible, they plan a supply run to a Haven shopping center to hopefully provide for their needs for the foreseeable future.

Of course there are the usual run-ins with the recently deceased and writer, Stevie Kopas, finds new ways to deal with the problem...

"She nodded, watching as Andrew took a slow-moving eater out with his golf club.  The hideous thing's jaw went flying off following the upswing.  Samson cracked it over the head with his shotgun, bringing it to its knees.  Putrid, black blood poured from the eater's face where its jaw had just vacated, painting the once-perfect white sand the color of death. Juliette flinched as Andrew brought the golf club down one more time for good measure."

The writing is suitably gory and visceral at times...

"She straddled his body and raised the garden light with both arms.  Zach's eyes shot open and locked with hers once more, but they were not the same eyes she had looked into moments before.  His half-eaten face and neck made her stomach turn but she swallowed her bile.  He growled demonically and his torso squirmed under her as she plunged the metal garden stake straight through the middle of his forehead.  No more sound or movement came from Zach.  No more sound or movement would ever come from Zach."

I liked the story in Haven more than the one in book 1 of The Breadwinner Trilogy.  It had all the elements of your standard zombie fare, but this one was more about the relationships and by the story's end, there's a greater threat to the group from within that there is from without.

Haven is available now from Permuted Press in a variety of ebook formats and in print from  Book 3 in The Breadwinner Trilogy, All Good Things, will be released on May 12th, 2015.

Recommended, especially if your going through zombie withdrawal with The Walking Dead currently being on hiatus.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Cogweaver: GnomeSaga (Book III) - by Kenny Soward - Effective conclusion to this sword and sorcery trilogy

5 of 5 Stars     Review Copy

A fitting conclusion to the GnomeSaga series. Personally, I'm into horror, I make no bones about it.  I've often said sword and sorcery is not my thing, although I've read and enjoyed both The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings more than once.  So to give 5 stars to Cogweaver is really saying something.

From the beginning of the story, in Rough Magick and continuing through Tinkermage, there has been a storm brewing, a war that will pit Gnomes against seemingly unbeatable forces led by the mysterious baron and his army of Ultraworlders.  But the Gnomes are not without friends and a few surprises.

In addition to the epic battle scenes, there's also the storyline of Niksabella and her mother's quest to become a goddess, a proposition that doesn't sit well with the cogweaver, but the alternatives are even worse.

The battle scenes are well-written and as in any war, there are devastating loses.  I even shed a tear while reading this one.  The sign of a good story is one that moves you. Cogweaver did just that.  It may be sword and sorcery, with gnomes, orcs, stonekin, and many other fantastical characters, but it's also a damn fine story.

Cogweaver is available now in both paperback and kindle formats from Ragnarok Publications through

To get the full experience of the GnomeSaga series, I recommend reading all three books, Rough Magick, Tinkermage, and now Cogweaver.

In addition, a quick shout-out to Cover Artist Arman Akopian for another eye-catching cover.

Highly recommended.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

The Dunfield Terror - by William Meikle - This book certainly live up to it's title

5 of 5 Stars     Review copy

First, let me point out that William Meikle is a terrific story-teller. If you haven't discovered this fact for yourself yet, correct that situation as soon as possible.  I have yet to be disappointed by one of his tales.

The Dunfield Terror is as complete a horror story as I have read in 2015.  As if fighting to keep the roads open over the fifteen kilometer stretch from Trinity to Irving Station in Canada's Newfoundland Province during a full blown blizzard isn't tough enough, surviving what's hidden in it's midst will take a miracle.

It all began 60 some years ago with the goal to render a battleship invisible.  Hell, what could possibly go wrong there?

"They want a weapon--and they won't believe me when I tell them that I have no idea how to build it. You saw what happened in Dunfield--it was a bloody accident--a terrible, terrible accident.  All I did was put the pieces in the right order, at the right time, in the wrong place."

Told through a series of journal entries from the past and present day events, The Dunfield Terror effectively takes the reader through a terrifying night fighting the elements and what they hide, while slowing revealing the secrets of the past.

One of my favorite reads so far in 2015, The Dunfield Terror is available now in limited edition hardcover, paperback and ebook formats from Darkfuse.  If you subscribe to Amazon's Kindle Unlimited you can read this one at no additional charge and if you are an Amazon Prime member, you can borrow this book and read it as your monthly selection through the Kindle Owners Lending Library.

Strongly recommended.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Of Myst and Folly - by Leah Cutter - Poor attempt at post apocalyptic fantasy

2 of 5 Stars     Review copy

Generally speaking, most of my reviews fall into the 4 and 5 star range.  It's because I tend to read what I think I'll enjoy and it usually turns out that way.

This book was tagged dragons, end of the world, fairy tale, post-apocalyptic, given those elements, it sounded like something I would like, but it just didn't turn out that way.

Also, I have this self-imposed rule which says, "Always finish what you start." When it comes to reading, I refuse to mark a book as DNF, particularly if I'm going to review it.

There were a number of warning signs going in, but I failed to heed them and found the overall experience with Of Myst and Folly to be less than enjoyable.

First sign was an unknown publisher, Book View CafĂ©.  According to their website, they are "a cooperative publisher. Our members are professional writers who want to use the Internet to reach a wider audience and distribute their work directly to readers."  OK, that isn't necessarily a bad thing. Then there was the cover, to say it's blasĂ©, would be kind.  The final warning came in the very first paragraph where a character was referred to as Brendon and Brandon within a matter of words.  How does that not get caught?  In a later chapter, the same character is referred to as Brendan.  Very annoying.

I could get past the proofreading issues, I've sort of given up on a lot of that kind of stuff.  It seems to be very prevalent today, but then there's the story.  There is a story, thus the 2 stars, but the writing is choppy, jumping from generation to generation, leaving many elements unexplored and too much of what is happening is left unexplained.

Sorry to say, Of Myst and Folly did not work for me.  The book is available from the publisher in both epub and mobi formats and you can purchase a print version through

Not recommended.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Within These Walls - by Ania Ahlborn - Ultimately a Haunted House story and a rather good one

4 of 5 Stars     Review copy

It all starts with a letter to True Crime writer Lucas Graham. What's important is who the letter is from and what it offers, a chance to interview convicted mass murderer, Jeffrey Halcomb, who has never told his story of the heinous crime for which he was convicted more than 30 years ago.

It's an opportunity that would jump-start Lou's flagging career, but there's a catch. Jeffrey want's Lou to live in the house in Pier Pointe, Washington, the scene of the crime.  It's a deal breaker, no interview unless Lou complies.

If Lou were a single man, this wouldn't be a big deal, but as a family man, trying to keep his marriage from falling apart, this becomes a very difficult decision.

Ahlborn does a nice job in bringing out the stress involved in making his decision, but ultimately, the offer of the interview is too good to pass up.  Lou and his twelve-year-old daughter, Victoria, make the move from New York to Washington, while his wife, Caroline stays behind with her career and boyfriend.

I started out thinking the story was about the interview with Halcomb, but as time went by, I realized it was all about the house.  Like any good ghost story, there is a slow build.  Little things, which taken by themselves, don't mean a lot, but as they add up, lead to a frightening environment.

The book is written with parallel stories.  There's Lou and his daughter moving into the house and Lou's attempts to get his interview and then there's the year leading up to the mass murder that took place in the house some thirty years before.

The two story-lines converge with the climatic scenes where all hell breaks loose.

I found Within These Walls to be an exceptionally well-crafted supernatural horror story. Seeing other reviews, not everyone agrees with me, but I can only relate my personal experience.

Within These Walls will be published on April 21st, 2015, by Gallery Books, a division of Simon and Schuster and will be available in a variety of formats.