Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Goblins - by David Bernstein - Go ahead, suspend your disbelief and just enjoy

5 of 5 Stars     Review copy

David Berstein makes his home in NYC and is likely hard at work on his next novel.  David writes all kinds of horror, from hair-raising ghost stories to gore-filled slashers to adventure-filled apocalyptic tales of terror.  Recent works include The Unhinged, Witch Island, and Apartment 7C.

His latest book, Goblins, is a genuine monster fest featuring...are you ready for it?  GOBLINS.  I don't think you can call that a spoiler since it's the title and there's a nice picture of one right there on the cover.

From the opening page of this book, I knew I was in for a treat and Bernstein did not disappoint.  Of course, this is one of those stories which requires the reader to suspend their disbelief, but if you can do that and you love gruesome, over-the-top horror then be ready for a wonderfully disgusting read.

If you were paying attention in middle school history, you may remember the story of The Lost Colony of Roanoke Island.  Over thirty years before the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock, a group of 117 weary men, women and children waded ashore and made history on Roanoke Island in July 1587, establishing the first permanent settlement of its kind in the Americas.  Shortly after arriving John White departed for England promising to return with more supplies. It was the last time he would ever see his family.  He returned three years later only to find the settlement deserted, plundered and surrounded by overgrown brush. On one of the palisades, he found the single word "CROATOAN" carved into the surface.  To this day, the mystery remains unsolved, but David Bernstein has some ideas on the matter.

Filled with stomach-churning prose that should not be read during or shortly following mealtime, Goblins  contains numerous visceral images.  The stuff nightmares are made of. And once again try not to get attached to any of the characters in the story.  It's like everyone in a David Bernstein novel has a wardrobe loaded with red shirts.

Published by Samhain horror, Goblins is available in both paperback and e-book formats.

Totally recommended.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Humanity's Hope: Camp H - Greg P. Ferrell - A great zombie story desperately in need of a good editor and proofreader

2 of 5 Stars    

During the Summer of Zombies 2015 Blog Tour, I won a copy of Humanity's Hope: Camp H by Greg P. Ferrell.  Cool, I thought. Free zombies.

Well, here's what I found.  A terrific story buried under the worst writing I've read in the three years I've been reviewing horror books.  Actually I'm used to finding the occasional error in most of what I get to read since I'm often reading uncorrected proofs. Unfortunately, this book was released in October of 2014 and the author provided me a copy through Amazon in June of 2015.

Although I have nothing against self-publishing, this turned out to be a time where a lack of a good editor and proofreading caused me to not enjoy the book as much as I could have. Here's a small sample of the kind of writing that drove me to distraction...

"Eva eyes Tomas and, for the first time in a long time, she said nothing as she sat down to started the planning for their mission.  Tomas got the hint and dove into the planning with her."

My biggest issues were the ongoing mixing of past and present tense, often in the same sentence, mixing of then and than, and frequently redundant passages.  It's a shame, too because the story was very original for zombie fare and there were several really nice twists to set up book two.

Even with all the mistakes, I enjoyed this enough to pick up book two when I have time.  I just hope that it will have a better editor and has been proofread before I get around to it.

Humanity's Hope: Camp H is available now in both paperback and Kindle formats through Amazon.com and can be read for FREE if you subscribe to KindleUnlimited.

Friday, July 24, 2015

In Silent Graves - by Gary A. Braunbeck - In the words of the Grateful Dead "What a long strange trip it's been"

4 of 5 Stars     Review copy

Have you ever read a story that confused the Hell out of you and yet you found it to be totally enjoyable?  For me, this perfectly describes my experience having just finished reading Gary A. Bruambeck's In Silent Graves.  There were times reading this book where I felt totally lost and yet by the end it all made sense.

Robert Londrigan and wife, Denise, have a spat about a child abuse story which Robert used as the lead on the six o'clock newscast without giving his pregnant wife a heads up. Denise finds such stories disturbing and Robert will usually let her know so she can avoid getting upset.  Robert leaves the house to clear his head and when he comes back he finds his world has been turned upside down.

In Silent Graves is a book that, at times, is bizarre, inexplicable, surreal, utterly strange, disgusting and yet ultimately beautiful, with richly detailed characters, and a story which explores the ancient Greek concepts of time.  You see, the Greek had two words for time, chronos, referring to chronological or sequential time, and kairos, signifying a time lapse, a moment of indeterminate time in which everything happens.

"As a child I longed for 'Once Upon a Time.'
As an adult I dismissed it.
Now I have no choice but to embrace it."

As confusing as I found In Silent Graves to be, I'm very glad I read this book.  I have a feeling it's going to be on my mind for days to come.  This is a new, author's preferred version, just released simultaneously by Journalstone publications, in hardback, paperback and e-book editions.


Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Killing Maine - by Mike Bond - Book 2 of 2 in the Pono Hawkins series

4 of 5 Stars     Review copy

When I decided to read Killing Maine by Mike Bond, I had no idea it was the second book in a series.  To tell you the truth, it would not have made any difference.  This book works perfectly well as a stand-alone novel.

A little bit about the author, Mike Bond.  Aside from being a bestselling author, Mike is an environmental activist, human rights and war correspondent, award-winning poet, and international energy expert.  In writing Killing Maine Mike calls upon all of those skills to deliver a well-told environmental thriller.

The story begins with a killer opening...

"A coyote barked downhill. As I stopped to listen a bullet cracked past my ear and smacked into the maple tree beside me. I dove off the trail skidding down the icy slope toward the cliff. Whack another bullet smashed into a trunk as I tumbled past, couldn't stop sliding, couldn't pull off my snowshoes, the cliff edge coming up fast as a shot whistled past my eyes, another by my neck."

Pono Hawkins, former Special Forces operative, returns to Maine to come to the aid of another former SF agent who is jailed on murder charges.  Pono doesn't particularly like the guy, but as former SF, it's what you do.

Before long, Pono finds himself battling corrupt politicians and villainous industrial wind companies and juggling relationships with three beautiful women.  To make matters worse, he left the warm climate of Hawaii to do all this in February, in Maine, where the temperature is nearly always below zero.

Given his background, Mike Bond, has a very specific point of view, but still manages to tell a compelling story.ripped from today's headlines.  The closer I got the end of the book, the faster my heart was racing.  Although a bit preachy at times Killing Maine was still a terrific read.

Killing Maine is available now in paperback and will also be available as an ebook in the near future. Published by Mandevilla Press.

Not horror, but certainly recommended.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Skinner - by David Bernstein - Friends isolated by a surprise snowstorm -- what could go wrong

4 of 5 Stars     Review copy

The last time I reviewed a David Bernstein book, Toxic Behemoth, I commented "NO ONE IS SAFE IN A DAVID BERNSTEIN BOOK."  That is certainly true in his latest novel from Darkfuse, Skinner.

From the opening words...

"The sky was mean-looking, ominous and dark, like a crinkled piece of carbon paper.  There hadn't been a storm in the forecast.  Golf-ball-sized snowflakes were coming down as if a pillow fight were taking place in the heavens above."

In other words, "It was a dark and stormy night."  And you just know that means trouble. What follows is a pulse-pounding story of six friends who become isolated in a surprise snowstorm.  Two questions come to mind in a story such a this, who will survive and just how will they meet their fates.

What awaits this group requires the suspension of disbelieve in a big way.  If you can do that, you're in for a treat.  Bernstein is a gifted story teller, even if he does take the reader well off the beaten track in this one.

Skinner will be available in both paperback and e-book formats on June, 21st, 2015. Published by Darkfuse, you can read this one at no additional charge if you subscribe to Kindle Unlimited.  Also, if you are an Amazon Prime member you can read this one for FREE as your monthly selection from the Kindle Owners Lending Library.


Friday, July 17, 2015

King of the Bastards - by Brian Keene & Steven Shrewsbury - Horror meets swords & sorcery

4 of 5 stars     Review copy

Brian Keene, a name synonymous with horror, and Steven Shrewsbury, best know for his work in the sword and sorcery genre, have combined their considerable talents and given us King of the Bastards.

Told as a story to a small group of children, it was to be about their grandfather, the king...

"'Was grandfather king of the entire old world?'

'No, he ruled but a small part of it. But he was known, feared, and lusted after throughout the entire old world. Kings, women, brigands, and bards---all knew his name. It is KING OF THE BASTARDS.'"

Check your thinking cap at the entrance and get ready for big time adventure. In the tradition of Conan the barbarian, King of the Bastards is a bold, brash saga of a king and his nephew on a quest to return home and save their people from oppression at the hands of a group of savages. Along the way they have to deal with sea monsters, zombies, pirates, giants, one-breasted amazonian women, maybe even aliens and some elements of Lovecraftian horror. 

Rogan, King of the Bastards, is a bit misogynistic, but he's a bastard and I guess that's to be expected. Overall, this was a lot of fun and I can't leave without complementing artist, Daniel Kamarudin, for the brilliant cover art on this book.

King of the Bastards will be available, July 21st, 2015, from Apex Books, in both digital and paperback formats.

Recommended for sure.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Cities and Thrones: Recoletta Book 2 - by Carrie Patel - Somewhat disappointing

3 of 5 Stars     Review copy

Cities and Thrones is the sequel to Carrie Patel's enjoyable debut novel, The Buried Life.  Both volumes are set in a time where many have chosen to live below the Earth's surface.  The fictional city of Recoletta, like all modern cities, had been constructed around the two values that society prizes most, security and privacy.

It's been a number of weeks since a coup occurred in Recoletta, Jane Lin and Fredrick Anders find themselves as refugees in the communes.  Meanwhile, back in the city, those who have stayed behind are doing their best to restore order under the leadership of Sato who lead the takeover.

I have to say, I liked book 1 better.  In The Buried Life all of this was fresh and new.  In Cities and Thrones there was a lot of espionage and intrigue, but for me, there seemed to be something lacking. I found myself not caring about any of the characters or the story, for that matter.

In the end, there were enough unanswered questions that there could be a third book, but if that happens, I don't think I'll be taking the time to read it.

Cities and Thrones is available now in paperback and ebook versions from Angry Robot Books.  As always in these situations, your mileage may vary.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Hannahwhere - by John McIlveen - A delightful blend of fantasy and horror

5 of 5 Stars     Review copy

John McIlveen is a relatively new voice in horror, having appeared in a number of high profile anthologies over the last few years including Epitaphs, Borderlands 5, Eulogies II, and Of Devils and Deviants.  October of 2014 saw publication of his first collection of short fiction, Inflictions from Macabre Ink, a division of Crossroad Press.

Hannahwhere is his first full-length novel and it was worth the wait. The   twins, Hannah and Anna Amiel, were only seven-years-old when they witnessed the worst crime imaginable, right in their own home, in Elm Creek, Nebraska.

Two years later and fifteen-hundred miles away, Isaac Rawls, is making his rounds hauling trash in Riverside, Massachusetts, when he discovers a little girl, laying right by a dumpster. Lucky to be alive, it's days before she speaks her first words to Debbie Gillan, the caseworker assigned to look into her situation.  It's not long before it's discovered the girl is Hannah.

Where has she been for the last two years?  Why doesn't she look any older?  What happened to her sister Anna?  As Hannah's secrets are revealed, the reader is thrown into a mystical world where the impossible is proven to be reality.

Hannahwhere is a smooth blending of fantasy and horror filled with mystery and a number of surprises.  John McIlveen proves to have a vivid imagination and tremendous story-telling skills.  As if the tale of Hanna and her sister wasn't enough, there's also the history of the caseworker which is a gruesome tale in it's own right.

Also published by Macabre Ink, a division of Crossroad Press, Hannawhere is available now as an e-book from the usual online retailers.

I heartily recommend.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

The Blumhouse Book of Nightmares: The Haunted City - Edited by Jason Blum - A stunning anthology from some of the biggest names in horror film and literature

5 of 5 Stars     Review copy

The Blumhouse Book of Nightmares: The Haunted City, edited by Jason Blum, is a stunning anthology from some of the biggest names in horror film and literature.

First a bit about the editor.  Jason Blum has worked as an executive producer for Bob and Harvey Weinstein, in 2000, he founded Blumhouse Productions, which specializes in micro-budget movies.  For example, Paranormal Activity which was produced for $15,000 and has earned nearly $200 million. Blum also produced Insidious, Sinister, The Purge, and the soon to be released, The Gallows.  I'd say he knows a thing or two about horror.

For The Blumhouse Book of Nightmares: The Haunted City, Blum has gathered some of the biggest names in modern horror films and literature and given them two guidelines--let the story take place in a city and enjoy no other creative constraints whatsoever.  The result is an impressive volume of some of the best horror I've read this year.

The collection gets off to a helluva start with "Hellhole" by writer/director Christopher Denham. Sam and Martha Rathbone purchase a fixer-upper in Crown Heights, New York and move in with their six-year-old son, Max.

"Behind a wall of cobwebs and dusty canned goods, Max found a doll about his size. Its body made of sticks tied together with twine and its head was a burlap bag filled with twigs. It didn't have hair and it didn't have clothes.  Nothing cute about it.  Which was fine by Max. He hated cute toy."

What follows is a beautifully written short with more horror than many full-length novels.

Another story worth mentioning is "Golden Hour" by screenwriter Jeremy Slater hose credits include The Lazarus Effect and the reboot of The Fantastic Four.  This one left me wondering if the protagonist was really a monster hunter or just a paranoid schizophrenic, either way there's some extreme monster stuff here.

The collection closes just as strong as it begins with "Procedure" from screenwriter/director/producer James DeMonaco, best known for his work on The Purge movies.  NYC has a new serial killer on the loose.

"I refocus on the victim's chest, which bears the same foot-long crudely stitched incision as the four others who were on this table recently.  Infected, swollen, oozing multicolored pus and bile.  It's as if JD went in for a heart bypass at the world's worst hospital, with the world's most incompetent doc, had his skin scalpeled with a rusty steak knife, his breastbone rent asunder with a chain saw, and was then stitched back up by handicapped kids using Pixy Stix and a ball of yarn."

The truth of what is happening in this story went far beyond my wildest expectations.

The Blumhouse Book of Nightmares: The Haunted City is 384 pages filled with seventeen deliciously dark tales.  Published by Doubleday, it's available now in a wide variety of formats from online retailers and brick and mortar book sellers.

My highest recommendation.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

We Are Monsters - by Brian Kirk - A valiant first novel

4 of 5 Stars     Review copy

This is the first published novel for Brian Kirk, the father of twin boys, who makes his home in Atlanta, Ga.

From the 1st page of We Are Monsters...

"The Apocalypse has come to the Sugar Hill mental asylum.

He's the hospital's newest, and most notorious, patient--a paranoid schizophrenic who sees humanity's dark side.

Luckily he's in good hands.  Dr. Eli Alpert has a talent for healing tortured souls.  And his protégé is working on a cure for schizophrenic, a drug that returns patients to their former selves.  But unforeseen side effects are starting to emerge.  Forcing prior traumas to the surface.  Setting inner demons free.

Monsters have been unleashed inside the Sugar Hill mental asylum.  They don't have fangs or claws.
They look just like you or me."

I always make notes as I read and three-fifths of the way through We Are Monsters I noted that I kept waiting for this book to take flight, but it never seemed to get off the ground. Well-written, but I would have liked it to have been so much more.

To that point, the book seemed more like a treatise on the care and treatment of the mentally ill in a modern day asylum than a horror story, but I will admit, once the horror is finally unleashed the action is fast and furious.  At times surreal, the payoff was definitely worth the wait.

From Samhain Horror, We Are Monsters is available now in both paperback and e-book formats.

Recommended for the patient horror fan.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Devil's Breath - by Greg F. Gifune - Wildly imaginative horror, some of Greg's best work

5 of 5 Stars     Review copy

Greg. F. Gifune is a best-selling author, called "One of the best writers of his generation" by  both the Roswell Literary Review and author Brian Keene.

Devil's Breath is his newest novel published by Darkfuse.  Devil's Breath is a real thing, go ahead and google it.  It's pretty scary stuff and was the direct inspiration for this wonderful work of fiction.

I was drawn in immediately by the darkly beautiful prose, beginning with this opening line, "It's a terrible thing to know terrible things."

Sometimes surreal and other times gritty and real, Devil's Breath will leave you questioning what you have known to be true your entire life.

There are some very well-drawn characters in this book.  I particularly liked the lead character's father and the acidic relationship shared with his son.  Others include Duane and the Professor, a couple of homeless men who have pivotal roles in the story.

This book is far from politically correct and I like that, too.  At times distressingly disturbing, with just enough truth to make you crazy, Devil's Breath might just cause you to lose some sleep.

Devil's Breath will be available on the Kindle on July 7th, 2015, from Darkfuse.  If you subscribe to Kindle Unlimited you can read this one at no additional charge and if you're an Amazon Prime member you can borrow it for FREE as a part of the Kindle Owners Lending Library.

Definitely recommended.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Esoterrorism - by C.T. Phipps - From the secret files of the Red Room - Some good old fashioned monster hunting

4 of 5 Stars     Review copy

It took me a while to decide how much I liked Esoterrorism, Overall it seems to lack depth.  It seemed things were just there when needed, like a rabbit being pulled from a magician's hat; like a meal that was filling, but lacked substance.

Derek and Penny Hawthorne work for an organization that exists to protect humans and keep them from finding out about all the things that go bump in the night, actually they would like to do much more than go bump, but you get the idea.

It would be interesting to note here that Derek and Penny are twins, their father is a big muckety-muck in this super secret organization and their mother was a dragon.  Have I lost you yet?

Derek's been assigned a new partner, Shannon O'Reilly.  Shannon is half-Lilin and all Succubus. Throw in a megalomaniacal villain and a power hungry CEO of a huge multi-national corporation bent on taking over the world, and you have everything you need for a rip-roaring urban fantasy thriller.

Esoterrorism is well-written and at times, witty...

"'Where's your home, Derek?' 'Nowhere.' 'So you're making all your nowhere plans for nobody?' I grinned at her reference. 'Way to undercut my angst.' 'Thank you'"

Then there's this gem when Derek and Penny's uncle Ben has them on a magic carpet on their way to an epic battle and Ben gestures...

"...to an 8-track player underneath an M16.  'Hey, do you mind putting in some Steppenwolf?  I think we need an appropriate bit of theme music for the last leg of our journey.'  'We're not listening to Magic Carpet Ride while having a magic carpet ride,' I said firmly.  ' We're on a serious mission here.'"

In all, Esoterrorism is a fun ride with plenty of magic and monsters.  Look for it at Amazon.com on July 6th, 2015, from Ragnarok Publications.