Tuesday, June 30, 2015
Draw Blood is the second book in the Blood Trilogy. Having read and enjoyed book 1, Blood Red, about a month ago, I was looking forward to seeing where author Jason Bovberg would take his characters as they do their best to survive an apocalyptic event.
What they are up against is something completely unique in the horror genre. So far we've learned that the survivors all have type O-Negative blood and that their blood can be used to keep the rest of the population (who seem to be controlled by some other intelligence) at bey and might actually be able to cure them in some instances.
Where book 1 was told from the point of view of a remarkably resourceful teenager, Rachel, book 2 is told by Rachel's father, Michael.
The story construct is still strong as the author doesn't miss a beat, even with the change in perspective. There is an attention to detail that makes this book and book 1 very easy to read. The scenes dealing with what the rest of the world has become are effective, but the real story lies in the sociological and psychological experiment that is the way the survivors interact and deal with their situation.
Draw Blood is another terrific read in the Blood Trilogy and I'm looking forward to seeing how it all ends in book 3.
Draw Blood is available now in both paperback and as an e-book from the usual online retailers. I definitely suggest reading book 1, Blood Red, first.
Monday, June 29, 2015
Originally a limited edition chapbook from by Villipede Publications. Baby's Breath is a terrifying story of a relationship falling apart after an unexpected pregnancy.
Ben and Diane seem to be very much in love, but once a baby is on the way things become less than ideal.
Baby's Breath is subtlety disturbing. What I really loved about this tale is the tone of Diane as she tells her story. Sweet, innocent, the voice of a loving mother, but Oh. My. God.
A delightfully demented quick read, Baby's Breath is available now at Amazon.com in a newly formatted, paperback, second edition, from Villipede Publications, with e-book to follow.
Friday, June 26, 2015
Sometimes it's OK to jump into a series without reading the books from the beginning, other times it not such a good idea. If you decide to check out Dave vs. the Monsters: Ascendance I strongly recommend starting at the beginning with Emergence and then reading Resistance. There were times, particularly at the beginning, where I had no idea what was happening. That I blame on myself for jumping in mid-steam.
Combine a Lovecraftian horror novel with an acid trip from the seventies and you might have some idea of the world created by novelist John Birmingham in his Dave vs. the Monsters series. The book certainly gets to the action quickly and barely lifts its foot from the accelerator until the very end.
Early on, I wanted to put this one down and move on to another book, but I really hate to do that. When I pick a new read it's always with a reason, a favorite author, interesting subject matter, a recommendation. In this case the following description for the book sold me...
"For fans of Jim Butcher and Kevin Hearne comes an exhilarating new urban fantasy series featuring monster-slayer Dave Hooper and his magical splitting maul.
Kids, there are no monsters under the bed. They’re in the front yard.
As a hardworking monster-slayer, Dave Hooper tries not to bring his work home with him. But nowadays it’s hard to keep them separate. Email, cellphones, empath daemons, they never let a guy rest.
The Horde has been raising hell and leveling cities from New York to Los Angeles, keeping Dave and his fellow monster-killer, Russian spy Karin Varatschevsky, very busy. But when the legions of hell invade the small seaside town his boys call home, Dave has to make a call. Save the world? Or save his family?
Not as easy a choice as you’d think, since Dave’s ex-wife expects to be saved too. And there’s no convincing her that the supersexy Russian spy isn’t his girlfriend. She’s just his sidekick—and an assassin."
Hell, I'm in. I'm not sure why I didn't like this as much as I wanted to. At times I found Dave vs. the Monsters: Ascendance very entertaining, laced with pop-culture and literary references, and ultra-violent. All things I like in my urban fantasy.
Dave vs. the Monsters: Ascendance will be available in paperback and e-book formats beginning June 30, 2015. Published by Del Rey Books, the Science Fiction & Fantasy imprint from Random House.
Recommended, but not for everyone.
Wednesday, June 24, 2015
Laurie Genarro's estranged father has passed away, an apparent suicide, and Laurie, her husband, Ted, and ten-year-old daughter, Susan have traveled from Connecticut to Maryland to deal with the estate.
When they pull up to the house on Annapolis Road Susan comments, "It looks like a haunted house." Little did they know what they'd find.
Little Girls is much more than a haunted house or a ghost story. A literary horror tale filled with lovely prose. "Beyond the curved bay windows, Laurie saw Ted and Susan galloping across the green lawn. They raced along the fence and up the lawn's slight incline to where the trees grew denser and the wild blackberry bushes and honeysuckle exploded like fireworks from the ground . The tree limbs that overhung the fence waved sleepily in the breeze, throwing moving shadows against the mossy pickets."
In addition to memories of her young life in the house when her parents were together, the setting also brought reminders of the dead girl, Sadie Russ.
Little Girls is a slow build, giving up its secrets sparingly, providing plenty of questions. Who is the little girl next door? What is the mystery of the belvedere room? Did Laurie's father really jump from the window of the same room or was what really happened much more sinister?
The creepiness factor increased greatly at about the midway point and includes one of the most disgusting scenes I've ever read and I'm not referring to the draining of the well which made my skin crawl.
Malfi provides some real "Oh wow!" moments for the reader and has an ending that may leave you less than happy.
Little Girls is something special and will be available in paperback, e-book and audio formats. Look for it on June 30th, 2015 from Kensington Books.
Tuesday, June 23, 2015
Another book packed with action and built on a terrific premise. In the future, hot spots around the globe are kept under control by Remote Infantry Units. The men and women who control these machines are all stationed in an ultra secure underground location at the Wiesbaden Army Airfield in Germany. At least that's where their bodies are while their minds are elsewhere controlling the Tin Men.
With both men and women participating in the project, why didn't they call them Tin Soldiers instead of Tin Men. The book provides a great answer.
"The Tin Men were mostly utilized for meddling in the business of other nations. They ended civil wars, oversaw fair elections, removed dictators, and by their mere presence they ended regional conflicts. Nobody seemed to notice that Remote Infantry Units had not invaded Russia or claimed the Middle Eastern oil fields for the United States or toppled any governments that weren't involved in actively torturing or murdering their citizens. Oppression was being suffocated and the result was a more just and peaceful world,, achieved through force and intimidation."
Of course not everyone is happy with the stability provided by the U.S.and one day the unthinkable happens. I don't want to spoil the experience with the hows and whys of what occurs. You really should read this one for yourself.
In some ways the concept reminded me of Avatar, but there were numerous differences. The story also read like John Scalzi's Old Man's War, but overall Tin Men is wildly original and a fast paced read.
As fantastical a story as this is, it's filled with truth. A sound tale, well told. As much about the people as it is about the conflict.
Available now in hardback, paperback, e-book and audio-book. Published by Ballantine Books.
Tin Men gets my highest recommendation.
Friday, June 19, 2015
The Disassembled Man is the third work I've read by Jon Bassoff and I have enjoyed each one. In his latest piece for Darkfuse, Jon takes the reader on a joyride that mixes the noir, hard-core crime, and horror genres with mostly successful results.
Frankie Avicious works in a slaughterhouse called Sunshine Foods, killing all day every day. I guess you could say killing came easy for Frankie.
The author's use of similes in this story was great fun. A few choice examples include...
"I couldn't have gotten a break if I'd smashed my own fingers with a hammer."
"Huerfano was your typical Norman Rockwell town--if Norman Rockwell had been an unemployed drug addict."
"...hungrier than a fasting Ethiopian."
I enjoyed every bit of this rough and tumble story. The author even managed a few surprises along the way.
The Disassembled Man is available now from Darkfuse in both Paperback and ebook formats. If you subscribe to Kindle Unlimited you can read this one at no additional charge. If you have Amazon Prime you can borrow it for FREE from the Kindle Owners Lending Library.
Wednesday, June 17, 2015
For Exposure: The Life and Times of a Small Press Publisher - by Jason Sizemore - The incredible 1st ten years of Apex Publishing
For the record, I read fiction, primarily horror. I'm not one for biographies or historical novels , so when the opportunity arose to read For Exposure, I hesitated, but just for a moment. I respect and admire what Jason Sizemore has been able to accomplish at Apex Publications and thought it might me interesting to see how he got there.
At the beginning of For Exposure it was like Jason was channeling the legendary Jean Sheppard, you know, the man responsible for "A Christmas Story." I nearly expected Jason to tell us that all he ever wanted for Christmas was a Red Ryder BB Gun.
As an adult, Jason, like many of us, felt stuck in a dead end job. Unlike many of us, he did something about that and followed his passion and so Apex Science Fiction and Horror Digest was born. What follows are numerous stories of trips to cons and ongoing efforts to grow a following for his new endeavor.
It's a great story of perseverance filled with delightful anecdotes of the publishing business and the writers who contribute to the Science Fiction and Horror genres. Jason even gives several of those he writes about in the book a chance to tell their side of the story.
All told, For Exposure: The Life and Times of a Small Press Publisher, is great for anyone who might like to see what goes into creating a successful small press, or just enjoys hearing great con stories, and believe me there are a few of those between these pages. Here's to the next ten years, Jason.
Available now in both Trade Paperback and Hardcover, and available soon as an e-book, from Apex Publications.
Tuesday, June 16, 2015
The Devil's Only Friend (John Cleaver) - Dan Wells - The start of a new series of stories featuring John Cleaver, demon hunter
Admittedly, I have never read the original trilogy of books in the John Cleaver series. One of these days I will need to rectify that. I'm also happy to say, it's not necessary to have read any of the other books to enjoy The Devil's Only Friend.
Reminiscent of Harry Dresden from the Dresden Files series by Jim Butcher, John Cleaver is a bit of an anti-hero, quick-witted with a sharp tongue, and an urge to kill. An urge that he controls in an unusual way. It's these tendencies that make him good at his job, working for a secret government kill team, using his gift to hunt and kill as many monsters as he can.
The Devil's Only Friend works very well as a stand-alone novel. The writing is crisp and clear. The action fast-paced and intense. I was barely through the first chapter when I realized I was going to love this book. Saving mankind is deadly serious business, but there's just a perfect dash of humor to break the tension once in a while.
Nothing quite goes as expected in this story and by the time it's over, John Cleaver finds himself asking, "Have I been wasting my time trying to be the good guy, when good and bad don't even make sense anymore."
I'd love to see this character on TV or in the movies, but for now, I'll have to settle for the printed word and am eagerly looking forward to the next book in the series.
Available in all formats from a variety of retailers, The Devil's Only Friend is published by Tor.
Sunday, June 14, 2015
Don Laurel and his wife, Nikki, are dropping off Don's mother at Mercy House. Harriet Laurel was losing her mind as a result of Pick's disease, like Alzheimer's leading to more and more "senior moments" and eventually to a near catatonic state.
The home rolls out the red carpet for new arrivals and their families, but things quickly turn ugly during an argument over who gets steak and who has to eat fish.
Adam Cesare instantly creates an atmosphere of terror. In the hours that follow some truly horrible crimes are committed. Although we never learn what caused the changes to the residents of Mercy House, the writing itself is top notch and there are some disturbingly violent images filling the pages of this book.
My wife works in a nursing home, the best recommendation I can give is to say I won't be suggesting she add it to her reading list. I don't think think she'd go back to work and we really need the money.
Mercy House is published by Hydra, the next generation of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror from Random House. It's available now in most e-book formats, from the usual online retailers.
Thursday, June 11, 2015
I was contacted directly by the author for a fair and honest review of his novella The Pariahs. Having just completed one book and having yet to start a new one from my ever increasing TBR list, I took a chance.
Sometimes such risks pay off with the discovery of something special, this was not one of those times. Don't get me wrong, there were a number of positives here. A haunting cover, a quick read, and Erik Hofstatter certainly has a capable writing style. The problem for me was the story. It lacked background, there was little in the way of character development, and in the end, nearly everything was left unresolved, making for a somewhat unsatisfying reading experience.
Disappointing, all the more so, because it all started with a damn fine paragraph...
"I was asleep when they came. Two of them armed with Kalashnikovs, dressed in radiation suits. One grabbed my hair and dragged me out of the warm bed, the last time I would ever sleep on a soft mattress. The other man aimed a rifle at my face before turning it around and knocking me out with the butt."
What follows is a mishmash of imprisonment of, and experimentation on, a pair of siblings suffering from the after effects of radiation deformity, the result of some unexplained apocalyptic event.
The Pariahs is available now through Amazon.com. If you subscribe to Kindle Unlimited you can read it at no additional charge and if you have Amazon Prime you can read it FREE as your monthly selection through the Kindle Owners Lending Library.
I can't recommend this one, but as usual in such situations, your mileage may vary and if you can take advantage of Kindle Unlimited or the Kindle Owners Lending Library, then there's certainly no harm in checking it out.
Wednesday, June 10, 2015
Every year, as Halloween gets closer, Haunted Attractions become big business around the country. People pay lots of money to be scared to death.
In her new novel, Insylum, author Z. Rider tells us of one such attraction that has taken the show on the road and made it a year round enterprise. Supposedly, it's the most intense experience imaginable. Lifelong friends A.J. and Nate decide to pay the price on the last night before A.J. is deployed to Afghanistan.
Insylum is incredibly dark, unrelenting, and at times disgusting, as the writer pushes all the right buttons to make this reader squirm again and again. Let me just say, maggots creep me out, and yes, there are maggots.
I must admit I love a good Haunted Attraction and so far, I've been able to drag my wife along when I take the family to one of these fun-houses, I'm going to have to make sure she doesn't read Insylum or I'll never get her to another one.
Much like the best of the haunted hayrides, houses, and corn mazes that pop up every Autumn, Insylum is not for the faint-hearted, but it is for those who love to have the crap scared out of them.
From Dark Ride Publishing Insylum is now available in paperback and Kindle formats through Amazon.com. If you subscribe to Kindle Unlimited, you can read it at no additional charge and if you have Amazon Prime, you read this one for FREE by making it your next selection through the Kindle Owners Lending Library.
Tuesday, June 9, 2015
Through A Mirror, Darkly - by Kevin Lucia - A delightful collection of dark tales from the Adirondacks
Through a Mirror, Darkly is a quartet of dark tales set inside the story of Arcane Delights, a used book store preparing to reopen in Clifton Heights, NY, nestled somewhere in the Adirondacks. If you've read any of Keven Lucia's prior works, you may already be familiar with this town. I think it's somewhere between Derry, Maine, and The Twight Zone.
The proprietor of the bookstore discovers a box he's not seen before and inside there is one, leather-bound, volume of stories about the town he lives in...
The first story within the larger tale is called, "Suffer the Children." Father Ward saw something during his tour in Afghanistan, something that continues to haunt his dreams now that he's a teacher at All Saints Elementary, as well as a local Parish Priest. The result is a delightfully dark and twisted tale of demons and the lost city of Corcosa. If you saw the first season of HBO's True Detective you know that can't be good.
"Yellow Cab" is about a young man who did everything right to get into a good school and ends up throwing it all away and is now driving for Yellow Cab in Clifton Heights. How did he get there? A chilling tale that gave me the creeps more than once. Very effective the way the stories bleed over into one another.
"Admit One" takes place over the years at the Mr. Jingo's, the annual fair that always visits Clifton Heights every August. A bit of fantasy mixed in with the horror in this tale.
And then there's "And I Watered It With Tears," where something as simple as standing in line to pay your electric bill can lead to death, particularly when you live in Clifton Heights.
Kevin Lucas, once again, does an excellent job of weaving all of the stories in this collection into a cohesive volume. Unsettling and entertaining, Through a Mirror, Darkly will leave you wanting to visit Clifton Heights again and again. I just don't want to live there.
Available now in paperback and e-book formats from Crystal Lake Publishing. If you subscribe to Kindle Unlimited you can read this one at no additional charge.
Sunday, June 7, 2015
With apologies to Eric Red, prior to getting this book from Samhain Horror, I knew nothing about his work. Turns out, Eric is an American screenwriter and director, best known for writing the horror films The Hitcher and Near Dark. And based on what I just read, he's a damn fine horror writer, as well.
This is the way the story opens...
"There's a killer on the road...
He's a big rig truck driver who goes by the handle White Knuckle, and he's Jack the Ripper on eighteen wheels. For thirty years he has murdered hundreds of women in unimaginable ways, imprisoning them in a secret compartment in his truck, abducting them in one state and dumping their dead bodies across the country.
Dedicated FBI agent Sharon Ormsby is on a mission to hunt down and stop White Knuckle. She goes undercover as a truck driver with a helpful long hauler named Rudy in a cross-country pursuit that will ultimately bring her face-to-face with White Knuckle in a pedal-to-the-metal, high-octane climax on a highway to Hell."
If that doesn't pull you in, maybe you should be reading romance novels instead of horror.
White Knuckle has plenty of action and the title character is one sick and twisted individual. The back story on the killer's childhood was absolutely chilling.
Special Agent, Sharon Ormsby, is a wonderfully strong female character and White Knuckle has some of the most horrific scenes I've ever read. There were times I was actually cringing in my seat while reading this novel. It's that good.
If you haven't been reading Eric Red, like me just a few days ago, do yourself a big favor and drop this book right on top of your TBR pile.
White Knuckle is available now in Paperback and a variety of e-book formats from Samhain Horror.
Saturday, June 6, 2015
Peter Giglio is a name I've been familiar with for some time, most likely from his work as Executive Editor of Evil Jester Press and his presence on Facebook, but for some reason, I've just never gotten around to reading any of his work. After reading Shadowshift, I'm going to have to keep an eye out for more from this talented writer.
In this tale, Peter has proven himself to be an accomplished storyteller with particular skill in delivering real conversation from his characters, particularly the pre-teen girls. He also has quite the imagination. I was drawn into the story immediately with an atmosphere of mystery and intrigue and although the tale required a willing suspension of disbelief, it was none the less enjoyable.
Shadowshift is filled with little touches throughout that just brought everything down to earth. Example, one of the lead character's in the book is a horror novelist and her literary agent has three beagles named, Larry, Moe, and Curly. That just made me stop and smile. Another character plops into his easy chair, channel surfing, and lands on Pawn Stars (who doesn't do that)?
One other nice touch was the recurring theme of Lou Reed's Perfect Day throughout the story. Loved it.
Shadowshift itself is really dark and twisted and if I have any complaint at all it's that the book is just too darn short, coming in at a mere 171 pages.
Available now, from Darkfuse, as an e-book through Amazon.com, Shadowshift can be read at no additional charge through Kindle Unlimited and if you subscribe to Amazon Prime you can read it for FREE as your monthly selection through the Kindle Owners Lending Library.
Thursday, June 4, 2015
The Singular & Extraordinary Tale of Mirror and Goliath: From the Peculiar Adventures of John Lovehart, Esq., Volume 1 - by Ishbelle Bee
A world of spiritualists, a murderer who kills children and transfers their souls into clockwork pieces of art, a shape-shifting guardian, a possible look at the root of the Jack the Ripper legend, and I still had a difficult time embracing The Singular & Extraordinary Tale of Mirror and Goliath.
Maybe it was the way the story was told piecemeal in a series of vignettes through a wide variety of first person narratives rather than with a single voice. At times it seemed disconnected. At first it almost seemed like a children's fairy tale, but before long we see the incredible darkness beneath the surface. That I liked
I'm not saying The Singular & Extraordinary Tale of Mirror and Goliath is without merit. The characters are well developed and quite varied and even the most ruthless among them isn't without a tender moment or two. It's just that I wished there was more of a cohesiveness throughout.
Although a part of a series, The Singular & Extraordinary Tale of Mirror and Goliath, stands well enough on its own and is available now both in paperback and e-book formats from Angry Robot Books.
I'm kind of on the fence when it comes to recommending this one. I liked it, but not enough to say others should read it, but then your mileage may vary.
Wednesday, June 3, 2015
If you've never read Benjamin Kane Ethridge be prepared for a wild ride, like a roller coaster in the dark, you just don't know which way your're going to go, you just know it'll be fast, furious, and filled with twists and turns.
When Jared Kare meets his personal Banshee, he doesn't know what to think. "A myriad of considerations passed through Jared's mind. She was going to rob him. She was going to hurt him. She's a female serial killer. He had fallen into a trap to be murdered--over boobs."
Up until now Jared's life has been fairly ordinary, but all that's about to change in a heartbeat. To say things become a bit surreal doesn't begin to describe what happens in Divine Scream. Actually what happens in the course of the next twenty-four hours is damn near indescribable, unless you happen to be Benjamin Kane Ethridge.
As strange as the story is, I quickly found myself totally immersed in the writer's world. Mixed in with all the weirdness, there is a wonderful story of feelings, emotions, and relationships. One line I particularly like was, "never forget, a best friend is the greatest kind of problem to have." So true.
I've come to accept that Benjamin's mind doesn't work like mine. Having read Black & Orange and Nightmare Ballad, I've learned to expect the unexpected. So I just strap myself into the passenger seat and go along for the ride.
BTW, one footnote, Benjamin writes drunk really well. Wait, I'm not saying he was drunk when he was writing, what I mean is there's a great scene in Divine Scream where one of his characters is falling-down drunk and he really captured the experience with his words. Phew.
Also, kudos to Rob Grom for putting together a very eye-catching cover.
Divine Scream is a multi-layered story combining horror and fantasy, all in an amazing world from the wild and vivid imagination of a talented writer. It's available now in both paperback and e-book formats from JournalStone publishers.
Tuesday, June 2, 2015
The advance praise I've seen from a number of authors I admire and respect made me doubt A Head Full of Ghosts could be as good as they were saying. Well, after reading the book myself, I'm no longer a doubter.
Paul Tremblay's new release could quite possibly be the perfect book. Best-selling author Rachel Neville plans to write the true story of "The Possession," a reality show that aired on The Discovery Channel a number of years ago.
She's managed to arrange an interview with Meredith (call me Merry) Barrett who is telling her full story for the first time. It's the story of how the reality show about her sister Marjorie's "possession" came about, and how it all played out in a six-episode series on cable TV.
The relationships among the family members, although strained at times, rings true, especially that of Marjorie and little sister Merry. The childhood memories were absolutely charming.
Skillfully written and very believable with some wonderful "Oh, WOW" moments A Head Full of Ghosts is not at all what I expected, and for that reason and many others, it's a so much better novel.
Available in hardcover, e-book, and audio editions, A Head Full of Ghosts is a must read for all horror fans.
My highest recommendation.
When Geoff Brown, the publisher of Cohesion press raves about a new work of horror, one that he isn't even responsible for, I tend to pay attention. I'm so glad I did, the end result was getting to read Spore, the new novel by Tamara Jones, a new author for me, but one I hope to revisit soon.
Sean Casey is just an ordinary guy trying to get by as an artist for the Graphic novel Ghoulies. He and his longtime girlfriend, Mare, live in Pinell, Iowa right by the Hobson Holiday Farm. What comes out of the farm on a Sunday morning in July will change their lives forever.
Spore is one of those novels filled with extraordinary circumstances, but with completely believable reactions.
There is so much going on in this story. People long dead, living again. Children being abducted, tortured, and killed The twenty-year-old secret behind most of what is occurring, finally seeing the light of day.
The characters are so well conceived and brought to life brilliantly. Some you can love and want to become friends with, others are so sick you just want to kill them yourself. I particularly liked the fight scene between Mare and Sean's overbearing mother, Helene. Brilliant.
Spore is like a really good B-Movie filled with twists I never saw coming and an unforgettable ending.
Available now in both paperback and as an e-book from Samhaim Horror.