Thursday, December 31, 2015

Occupied Earth: Stories of Aliens, Resistance and Survival at all Costs - Edited by Richard Brewer and Gary Phillips - A terrific shared world anthology

4 of 5 Stars

Every now and again I like to step away from the horror genre and read something different.  I saw this one and thought it might be a nice change of pace.  It was exceptional. Occupied Earth: Stories of Aliens, Resistance and Survival at all Costs is a shared world anthology where the earth has been conquered by an alien race  and is now under their rule.  Each story is a slice of life and what it's like living under the authority of the Mahk-Ra.

There weren't a lot of familiar names in this anthology, at least they weren't familiar to me, they may be to you, and they certainly are to the writers themselves.

Each writer manages to tell a solid story of life in the aftermath of an alien invasion, and at the same time keep the overall mythos of the new Earth consistent throughout.  Kudos to editors Richard Brewer and Gary Phillips who, no doubt, played a big part in pulling that off.

Hunter X – Parts 1-3 by Richard Brewer and Gary Phillips 

Richard and Gary are the editors of the anthology.  Richard is a native Californian, has always been a lover of stories and storytelling. He has worked as a writer, actor, bookseller, story editor, book reviewer, movie and television Development Executive, and audiobook narrator. Gary has family roots in Texas and the Mississippi Delta, he's a native of  L.A. and was editor of the bestselling Orange County Noir.  His graphic novel about a money launderer, The Rinse, has been optioned for television

The Hunter X story is split into three parts.  It starts and ends the anthology and there's another piece about midway through the book.  In this story FBI Special Agent, Paul Hunter, and his partner, JoHannas-ra, make up the first Mahk-Ra-human investigative team.  "...a shining symbol of interspecies cooperation.  Harmony among the species and all that."  Told with a touch of humor, this story sets the stage fort the rest of the anthology.

Do No Harm by Rachel Howzell Hall and David W. Hall

Rachel Howzell Hall is the author of the critically-acclaimed mystery series featuring LAPD Homicide Detective Elouise Norton.  David Hall is the Design Director for the digital arm of the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN). This is his first story collaboration with his wife writer Rachel Howzell Hall.

Years after the Mahk-Ra occupation two EMTs just doing their job stumble upon a scene which will change their lives again. Just because the Mahk-Ras can do whatever they like doesn't make it right.

Pike Street Pick-Up by Adam L. Korenman 

Adam Korenman has been dabbling in writing for most of his life, but only recently began spilling the crazy thoughts down on paper. Adam is also a Captain with the Army National Guard, serving with a company of tankers in California.

Pike Street Pick-Up is a fine story of a street urchin and pickpocket who lifts more than he bargains for from a Mahk-Ra official.

Union Day by Lisa Morton 

Lisa is a six-time winner of the Bram Stoker Award®, a recipient of the Black Quill Award, and winner of the 2012 Grand Prize from the Halloween Book Festival.   She also knows more about Halloween than just about anyone in the world.

Union Day is a Halloween story, of sorts, set in this shared world of alien domination.

How the Game is Played by Rob Hart 

Rob Hart has been a political reporter, the communications director for a politician, and a commissioner for the City of New York.  His debut novel, New Yorked, was published by Polis Books in June 2015.

How the Game is Played shows how even with the occupation it's politics as usual.

Strange Alliance by Cliff Allen 

Cliff is a lifelong fan of the space program, and that has led to an avid interest in science fiction as a literary form.

Strange Alliance features clever storytelling and good writing.  It's about a merciless human who rises high in the ranks of the Mahk-Ra.

Hope by Matthew V. Clemens 

Matthew V. Clemens is a long-time co-conspirator with Max Allan Collins, the pair have collaborated on over twenty novels – including CSI and Criminal Minds TV tie-in books.

Hope is another well-told story of occupation and resistance and how one should never jump to conclusions.

Location, Location, Location by Howard V. Hendrix

Howard Hendrix is the award-winning author of six novels, as well as numerous non-fiction books and short stories.

A prime example of how life goes on after the occupation.  The story of an ex-astronaut turned real estate agent working to make a sale of a movie making property to the Mahk-Re.

Letting Go the Ghosts by Marsheila Rockwell and Jeffrey J. Mariotte

Marsheila (Marcy) Rockwell and Jeffrey J. Mariotte have written more than 60 novels between them. They’ve also written dozens of short stories, separately and together.

For the Occupied Earth anthology they've written a powerful story of the Taovayan native Anerican tribe continuing to make their way under Mahk-Ra occupation.  Now comes an offer for the mineral rights to their land that the Taovayan cannot refuse, but not everyone believes they should sell.

A Day in the Life by R. M. Johnson 

Richard M. Johnson is a screenwriter, copywriter, playwright, and poet. His short stories can be found in several anthologies.  He is also a performer and photographer and uses both avocations as excuses to occasionally get out of the house and into the sun.

Another solid story.  This one set in occupied L.A.

Second Coming by Craig Faustus Buck 

Craig Faustus Buck is an LA-based writer for both print and screen.  He is President of Mystery Writers of America SoCal chapter, a member of the board of Sisters in Crime LA, and an active member of the Writers Guild of America and International Thriller Writers.

This was my personal favorite story in the anthology.  Quite an original tale.  I would love to see this given a longer treatment someday.

The Devil You Know by Jessica Kaye 

Jessica Kaye is a partner at Kaye & Mills (, a law firm specializing in publishing and entertainment. She is an audiobook producer of hundreds of audiobooks, more than a few of which have been nominated for Grammy Awards.

Another well told story of Mahk-Ra and humans working together, with a nice twist.

Johnny and the Warehouse Women by Nathan Walpow 

Nathan Walpow is a prolific writer, a past president of the Southern California chapter of Mystery Writers of America, and a five-time Jeopardy! champion.

A simple warehouse robbery uncovers a prostitution ring involving Mahk-Re women.  From there, things get a bit complicated.

Traitor by Adam Lance Garcia 

Adam Lance Garcia was raised on comic books, movie serials, and lightsabers.  In addition Adam has also worked as a full-time television producer and a part-time screenwriter.

A brilliant story of revenge.

Occupied Earth: Stories of Aliens, Resistance and Survival at all Costs is out now from Polis Books and is available in paperback, e-book, MP3, and Audible formats.


Wednesday, December 30, 2015

The Madness of Cthulhu - Volume Two - Edited by S. T. Joshi - New stories inspired by H. P. Lovecraft

4 of 5 Stars     Review copy

From the Intro to The Madness of Cthulhu - Volume Two - "If there is a dominant theme in this volume and its predecessor, it is that of alien incursion, the notion that 'we are not alone in the universe.'"

For me it's all about the stories and in this anthology the stories are, for the most part, excellent.

20,000 Years Under the Sea - Kevin J. Anderson - With more than 50 books to his credit, in the world of SF his is as close to a household name you can get.  I just loved the mixing of the world of Captain Nemo with the Cthulhu mythos.  A truly engaging story combining the works of Jules Verne and H. P. Lovecraft.  A perfect start to the anthology.

Tsathoggua's Breath - Brian Stableford - Brian's recent fiction includes a series of novels and novellas featuring Poe's detective Auguste Dupin, some of which confront him with the Cthulhu mythos.  Tsathoggua's Breath is the name of a glacial wind that blew from the North in a time when Greenland was no longer green.  Tsathoggua is also the name of an ancient god, invisible, known for stealing children.

The Door Beneath - Alan Dean Foster - His first published work appeared in the Arkham Collector in 1971.  Over the years his name has become synonymous with the media tie-in novel, including a number of Star Wars and Star Trek books.  At a secret lab, well below a secure location in Antartica, the Russians are performing experiments on something unimaginable.  "The sight was awe-inspiring, overwhelming, humbling, terrifying."

Dead Man Walking - William F. Nolan -  Continuously published since 1952, William is perhaps best known for creating Logan's Run.  He is the recipient of the lifetime achievement award from the Horror Writer's Association and a "living legend" award from the International Horror Guild. Philips is a writer with a book due his publisher, exposing the truth about and debunking supernatural beliefs. By the end of this one he may have to reconsider his premise for the new book.

A Crazy Mistake - Nancy Kilpatrick - Nancy is an award winning author with 18 published novels, more than 200 short stories, and the editor of  more than a dozen anthologies.  A researcher for the B-movie industry, whose job is to add credence to everything from stories of mummies to space creatures, uncovers a book in the Miskatonic University library called The Great Old Ones.  What she discovers is enough to drive her mad.

The Anatomy Lesson - Cody Goodfellow - Cody is no stranger to the Cthulhu mythos, having written short stories for The Book of Cthulhu 2, A season in Carcosa, and others.  In an earlier time, medical students turn to grave robbing to obtain fresh corpses for their final exam and unearth an empty coffin.  What lies beneath the graveyard is horrible beyond words.

The Hollow Sky - Jason C. Eckhardt - Jason is a self-taught illustrator and writer.  His non-fiction writing has appeared in Lovecraft Studies  and Studies in Weird Fiction. Investigations into an ultra-normal phenomenae on the East Antarctic Shield.  Another well-told story of the Old Ones and a plan to take back their world.

The Last Ones - Mark Howard Jones - Mark Howard lives in Carfiiff, the capital of Wales and has had dozens of short stories published on both sides of the Atlantic.  A story filled with beautiful prose.  A tale about finding your way home.  Set on the West coast of Wales, professor Patrick Neede is there to research the legendary Saint Degion, or at least that's what he thinks.

A Footnote In the Black Budget - Jonathan Maberry - I think, by now, most of us know the name Jonathan Maberry, a New York Times bestselling author, multiple Bram Stoker Award winner, and freelancer for Marvel Comics.  There's no mistaking a Joe Ledger story from Maberry.  Fast-paced with words that just jump off the page.  "We were aboard an LC-130 Hercules, a big military transport plane fitted out with skis. None of us liked the fact that our plane had to have skis."  In this story the DMS team goes up against something in the Antarctic that even they have never had to deal with before.

Deep Fracture -Steve Rasnic Tem - Steve's 200 plus published pieces have garnered him a British Fantasy Award, World Fantasy Award, and a nomination for the Bram Stoker Awards. It's all about what's below the abandoned coal mines in the Appalachian mountains.

The Dream Stones - Donald Tyson - Donald is a Canadian writer of fiction and nonfiction dealing with all aspects of the Western esoteric tradition, as well as a biography of Lovecraft titled The Dreamworld of H. P. Lovecraft.  This is probably my favorite story of the anthology.  It starts with one hell of an opening, too.  "Let me make this clear, I had nothing to do with the events I am going to set down in this narrative.  I was merely an observer, and I am in no way responsible for what happened this semester, either in a moral or a criminal sense.  None of the deaths were my fault."

The Blood In My Mouth - Laird Barron - Laird is the author of several books, an ex-patriate of Alaska, now making his home in upstate New York.  This short story is set in Alaska where a bush pilot see monsters in the depths of Lake Iliamna, monsters as big as nuclear submarines.

On the Shores of Destruction - Karen Haber - Karen is a Hugo nominated editor and author of nine novels predominantly in the real of SF and Fantasy.  Something changes after the big hurricane hits Galveston.  Another fun story which features the Old Ones.

Object 00922UU - Erik Bear and Greg Bear - Erik is building his bibliography and Greg has established himself as one of the leading writers in the field of SF, having won the Hugo, Nebula, and Endeavor Awards.  These two have teamed up before as they do here to present a story of The Xenic Disposal Team whose job it is to study alien relics, determine if they are dangerous, and if so, disarm and dismantle them before they can do harm.

Although, I am no authority on Lovecraftian literature, I did enjoy many of the stories in this new anthology, and whether you're a fan of Lovecraft or not, I think you will find something you like here, as well.

Published by Titan Books, The Madness of Cthulhu - Volume Two, is available in both paperback and e-book formats.

If you're new to Lovecraft or already a fan, I feel comfortable recommending this new volume.

S. T. Joshi is a leading authority on H. P. Lovecraft, Ambrose Bierce, H. L. Mencken, and other writers, mostly in the realms of supernatural and fantasy fiction.  A prominent atheist having also published works in that field, as well as having had published two works of detective fiction and has written a supernatural novel centering around H. P. Lovecraft, The Assaults of Chaos.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Sour Candy - by Kealan Patrick Burke - A disturbing novella that completely creeped me out

5 of 5 Stars

From the cover, right through to the very last word, there was nothing I didn't like about this creepy little story.

Take the opening line, for example, "Four months to the day he first encountered the boy at Walmart, the last of Phil Pendleton's teeth fell out."

Phil Pendleton never should have taken the day off, never should have gone to Walmart, never should have taken that piece of Sour Candy from the boy in the check-out line.

Sour Candy has an amazing twist right at the start of the novella, but it's far from the only surprising turn of events as Phil's world is turned completely upside down and inside out more than once. Eventually he's driven to the breaking point, driven to do what, at one time, he would have considered unfathomable.

This is, by far, one of the strangest stories I've read in 2015 and I loved EVERY minute of it.

Self published and currently available only in digital, Sour Candy, is a treat for your reading taste buds.  Is that a thing?  If it isn't, it should be.

Highly recommended.

Born and raised in Dungarvan, Ireland, Kealan Patrick Burke is the Bram Stoker Award-winning author of five novels, over a short stories, six collections, and editor of four anthologies.  When not writing, Kealan designs covers for print and digital books through his company Elderlamon Design.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Lost in the Dark - by Joe Mynhardt - A rather tme collection of horror

3 of 5 Stars     Review copy

Joe Mynhardt is a South African writer of horror with more than 50 published short stories to his credit.  He is also the owner and operator of Crystal Lake Publishing, publishers of horror and dark fantasy.  Find out more at

Lost In the Dark: A Collection of Short Stories contains a dozen example's of Joe's writing covering a wide variety of horror tropes.

"The Great Wall of Rubin" - Rubin, a recovering alcoholic goes to a meeting four months sober.  His evening doesn't exactly go as planned.

"Beyond the Ornate Tree" - The protagonist is a grown man scared of Christmas.  When he has a breakthrough with his therapist and we learn why, hell I'd be scared of Christmas, too.

"Portico" - A group of friends become trapped in an abandoned observatory with a bloody past.

"The Way Back" - A fairly entertaining story of a paranormal investigator.  Inspired by watching too many episodes of Ghost Adventures.

"Always Come Back" - A twisted little tale which started as an exercise on

"Fashionable Undead" - I think this story may feature the most unusual use of zombies, EVER.  A fun read.

"Come All To the River of Death" - Joe dreamt this story in it's entirety.  The result is a mostly entertaining haunted mansion tale with a number of little twists.  I loved the subtlety of the line where the Doctor says, "I managed to save your eyes."

"Forgive Me Now" - Another story that came out of a writing challenge at about a marital spat gone awry.

"Lost In the Dark" - A young girl becomes trapped with others in a strange man's basement somewhere in a shadow infested forest where no one would dare to look for them.

"Rise, Dead Man" - A so-so story featuring grave robbing as a career choice.

"Zombie Mischief" - Pranking with zombie parts.

"The Nature of the Beast" - The collection closes with Joe's take on the werewolf tale.

Joe has a very simple writing style, I'd have to say it's capable, but not very challenging.  As a result, so are his stories. Although, not marketed as such, Lost In the Dark: A Collection of Short Stories is more suited to the YA audience and can serve as an introduction to horror for a younger audience.

Published by Crystal Lake Publishing, Lost In the Dark: A Collection of Short Stories, is available now both in paperback and e-book formats.  If you subscribe to Kindle Unlimited you can read this book at no additional charge.  Plus, if you are an Amazon Prime member you can read it for FREE through the Kindle Owners Lending Library.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Galefire - Kenny Soward - The first in a new Urban Fantasy series from the author of the Gnomesaga books

4 of 5 Stars     Review copy

Kenny Soward is a relatively new author, one of his first published stories was a short in Manifesto: UF,  an Urban Fantasy anthology edited by Tim Marquitz and Tyson Mauermann, published in September of 2013.

Since that time he's written the Gnomesaga series, my personal favorite, and co-authored two Dead West novels with Marquitz and Joe Martin.  Another highly entertaining series.

Kenny's latest project is Galefire.  This first book in a new series took a while to sink its hooks into me.  On the surface it appears to be about one of the most unlikable characters put to paper, or in this case, to digital text.  Lonnie, please don't call me "Lons", is a street runner for the 8th Street Gang in Cincinnati, a heroin addict who can't even remember the names of the wife and daughter he's left behind.  But the truth is much more complex, the author's synopsis of the story says it better than I could.  "Outcasts from another world find sanctuary on Earth, at least until the friends and monsters from their past find them..."

Galefire is one very twisted story and takes its time unraveling, but it is ultimately satisfying and features a well-written final conflagration.  Plus, there are monsters and fiends and atrocities...oh, my.

Galefire is available now as an e-book from Broken Dog Press.  It is book one in a new series, with book two, Galefire II: Fade Rippers coming in the Spring of 2016.  I'll be looking forward to it.


Kenny Soward grew up in Crescent Park, Kentucky, a small suburb just south of Cincinnati, Ohio, listening to AC/DC, Quiet Riot, and Iron Maiden. In those quiet 1970’s streets, he jumped bikes, played Nerf football, and acquired many a childhood scar.

The transition to author was a natural one for Kenny. His sixth grade teacher encouraged him to start a journal, and he later began jotting down pieces of stories, mostly the outcomes of D&D gaming sessions. At the University of Kentucky, Kenny took creative writing classes under Gurny Norman, former Kentucky Poet Laureate and author of Divine Rights Trip (1971).

By day, Kenny works as a Unix professional, and at night he writes and sips bourbon.

Kenny lives in Independence, Kentucky, with three cats and a gal who thinks she’s a cat.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

My Top Ten Favorite Reads of 2015

By year's end, I will have read 140 books.  That's a lot, even for me.  I've been doing this review blog for more than three years and in mid-July, I began reviewing for where they have published 16 of my reviews to date.  Looks like I may even have a few in the next print edition of Cemetery Dance Magazine, due out before year's end.

To  take the many great reads I've enjoyed this year and narrow that number down to ten was no small task.  Slightly more than 7-percent of the books I've read have made their way onto this list, and here they are, complete with links to my reviews...

#10 - Seize the Night: New Tales of Vampiric Horror edited by Christopher Golden

#9 - Little Girls by Ronald Malfi

#8 - Andersonville by Edward M. Erdelac

#7 - GodBomb! by Kit Power

#6 - Sacrificing Virgins by John Everson

#5 - Red Equinox by Douglas Wynne

#4 - Point Hollow by Rio Youers

#3 - Brother by Ania Ahlborn

#2 - A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay

#1 - Hannawhere by John McIlveen

Honorable mentions go to...

If you have a mind to, check out one or more or all of these books and whatever you do, never stop reading.

Sacrificing Virgins - by John Everson - A consistently dark collection of short stories. Really enjoyed this one.

5 of 5 Stars  Review copy

First let me say I am ashamed I have never read anything from John Everson before.  Why didn't someone tell me about this guy.  Wow.

Sacrificing Virgins is Everson's fourth collection and contains twenty-five of the darkest, most sexually perverse writing I've ever read and I mean that as a complement.  While reading this book, a friend heard me talking about it and asked what she should read by him.  I suggested vising his website at and just pick something that struck her fancy, but I also warned that I found his stories to be among the most disturbing I've ever read. I compared it to a dark amusement park where Stephen King was the kiddie rides and John Everson was the thrill rides for the more adventurous reader.  Don't get me wrong, I love Stephen King, but Everson just takes horror to a whole new level.

As I looked over the list of stories in the collection, preparing to write this review, so many of the titles took me back to the heart of its tale and made me shiver.  That's a job well done.

She Found Spring - The collection begins with a wonderfully charming ghost story just filled with melancholy.

In Memoryum - What if you wanted nothing more than to forget, but once you forgot, you wanted nothing more than to remember.

Bad Day - I hate bugs.  This short has a new one that really creeped me out.  One of the best horror shorts I've read in some time.  Fires on all cylinders.

Nailed - Killer opening line. "Some people found their sex toys in the adult catalogues and others in seedy bookstores.  But Natalie found her garden."  I can promise it's not what your thinking.

The Eyes - Worse than bugs.  Messing with my eyes.  I won't even wear contacts because I have a hard time putting my own finger to my eye.  This story really gave me the heebie jeebies.

Sacrificing Virgins - The title story for the collection and it certainly didn't disappoint.  The tale of a rock star who made a deal with the devil.  After each performance he must have sex with a virgin, before midnight, or the deal is done.  What could possibly go wrong?

Whatever You Want - A story filled to overflowing with perverse pleasures.  One of the most brutal and memorable in the collection.

Grandma Wanda's Jelly Belly - The title says it all.  I will say this, John Everson is one sick puppy and I can't get my fill.

I love Her - A demented tale of a man and the love of his life.  The story has several choice slaughterhouse similes which are to die for.

Eardrum Buzz - Wes is beyond excited at the prospect of joining the street team for his favorite band, Eardrum Buzz.  Another story where bugs play a big part.  What if that buzzing in your ears wasn't tinnitus. Creepy.

Field of Flesh - Visceral storytelling at its best.  Not just sex and violence, but a great story with sex and violence.  Set in the same world as the author's novel NightWhere.

Faux - A very short story that begins with a weekly lunch at the zoo and leads the reader to an unexpected end.

The Pumpkin Man - A really delightful Halloween story about the Pumpkin man who comes to town every year with carved pumpkins that are pure works of art, until some kids learn of the inspiration for the carvings.

The Tapping - Proof positive that drinking and graveyards don't mix.

The White House - A very twisted story of a white house with an appetite.

Star On the Beach - There are just so many great stories in this collection..  This one involves necrophilia and even though it's rather easy to see the end coming, the execution is just brilliant.

My Aim is True - Another of the shorter stories in the collection about what it comes down to for each of us in the end.

Fish Bait - A well-imagined story and brutally violent.  A perfect title, too.

Camille Smiled - How far would you go to bring your dead child back to life?

Ligeia's Revenge on the Queen Anne's Resurrection - A wonderful short about the song of a siren.

Green Apples, Red Nails - Another Halloween tale of sorts.  Sick and twisted, like so many of the stories in this collection.

To Earn His Love - More fun at Halloween.  This one about a teacher and her special student and what she does to bring forth a demon.  I've never seen a story where someone conjures a demon and it ends well.  This is no exception.

Still, They Go - Another really good opening. "I loved her, but I wanted to kill her.  Maybe that's what saved her life.  Maybe that's what doomed mine."  One of so many favorites in this book.  A very good little ghost story.

Voyeur - A sneaky story that seems to be about a peeping Tom/murderer that turns about to be about a peeping Tom/murderer.  If you read the story, that comment will make perfect sense.

The Hole to China - A bit of a fantasy story of a young boy digging his way to China.

In the end, Sacrificing Virgins was an exhilarating read which left me yearning for more.

The collection is available now in both paperback and e-book formats from Samhain horror.

Definitely recommended, if you think you can handle the hard stuff.

John Everson is an American author of contemporary horror, dark fantasy, science fiction and fantasy fiction. He is the author of eight novels and six short fiction collections, all focusing on horror and the supernatural. His novel Covenant, was originally released by Delirium Books in 2004 and won the Bram Stoker Award for a First Novel the following year.

Bedlam Lost - by Jack Castle - Comparisons to Lost and Wayward Pines are inevitable, but still an enjoyable read

4 of 5 Stars     Review copy

Havenport, Alaska.  A very small community with limited access in or out of town, and like the lyrics to Hotel California, "You can check-out anytime you like, but you can never leave."

As I'm reading Bedlam Lost, the first word that pops into my mind is "strange," but in a nice way.

The key players in this book share a common experience, they are new to town and the way each of them came to be in Havenport is shrouded in mystery. And just what is Latitude 61?

As a reader, I don't generally enjoy being left in the dark, but with Bedlam Lost, despite not really knowing what was going on, I found myself enjoying the storytelling.  There is an overall surrealness to life in Havenport, Alaska. And the story itself features more twists than a Philly soft pretzel.  The end result is an enjoyable read.

Bedlam Lost is currently available as an e-book from Edge publishers.  If you subscribe to Kindle Unlimited you can read this one at no additional charge.  Plus, if you are an Amazon Prime member you can read it for FREE using the Kindle Owners Lending Library.


Jack Castle's live reads more like that of a character in one of his books.  He has traveled the globe as a professional stuntman for stage, film, and television. While working for Universal Studios, he met Cinderella at Walt Disney World and they were soon married.

After moving to Alaska, he worked as a tour guide, police officer, Criminal Justice professor, and certified weapons instructor. He has been stationed on a remote island in the Aleutians as a Response Team Commander and his last job in the Arctic Circle was protecting engineers from ravenous polar bears. He has had several Alaska adventure stories published along with articles in international security periodicals.

Monday, December 7, 2015

The Beast of Barcroft - by Bill Schweigart - Entertaining story of a monster terrorizing a suburban neighborhood

4 of 5 stars     Review copy

I must admit, I never heard of Bill Schweigart until I came across this book in Netgalley, but I found the title, description, and cover to be enough to pique my curiosity.   I am so glad I took a chance.  The Beast of Barcroft was a genuinely pleasant surprise.

Great writing and interesting storytelling.  The author is quite skilled in character construction and creating believable situations out of beyond believable events.

There are a number of twists as the facts slowly come to light and several "Oh, Wow!" moments.

The story begins in the Arlington, Virginia, community of Barcroft where, recently divorced, Ben McLelvie is having a bit of a rat problem due to a neighbor, Madeleine Roux, who calls herself an animal rehabilitator.  Her activities have lead to all kinds of vermin which seem to have attracted a bigger predator to the neighborhood.

As deaths mount and the story changes, Ben is put in touch with Lindsay Clark, the curator of great cats at the Smithsonian Institution's National Zoo.  She has a friend who is a cryptozoologist, and that's when things really get interesting.

I'm kind of beating around the bush here because I don't want to give too much away, but I will tell you I did enjoy the read and will likely read the sequel when it comes out in February of 2016.

The Beast of Barcroft  is currently available, as an e-book, and is published by Hydra Books, a division of Random House LLC.


Bill is a former Coast Guard officer who drew from his experiences at sea to write the taut nautical thriller, SLIPPING THE CABLE. Bill currently residents in Arlington, VA with his wife and daughter, who along with their monstrous Newfoundland and mischievous kitten, provide him with all the adventure he can handle.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Blurring the Line - edited by Marty Young - What's fact...what's fiction...the lines are blurred in this anthology

4 of 5 Stars     Review copy

I can't help but like the concept for this anthology.  From editor Marty Young's introduction..."Blurring the Line is a mixture of fact and fiction – but perhaps some of the fact is really fiction, and some of the fiction is fact.  The lines have been blurred between the two, the division lost, and that was the whole point of this adventure."

Most of the stories do a good job of delivering on the anthology's theme, but there are a couple that  just didn't seem to hit the mark in that respect, or at least they didn't for me.  Of course, your mileage may vary.

Introduction – Marty Young – Marty Young is a Bram Stoker-nominated and Australian Shadows Award-winning writer and editor, and sometimes ghost hunter. He was the founding President of the Australian Horror Writers Association from and one of the creative minds behind the internationally acclaimed Midnight Echo magazine, for which he also served as Executive Editor until mid-2013.  In addition to the introduction, he is responsible for the various (non-fiction) pieces throughout this book that help tie all the the various stories together.

Our Doom is Nigh – Tom Piccirilli – In addition to having the opening story in this collection, Blurring the Line is dedicated to Tom who left us earlier this year.  "Our Doom is Nigh" is a very personal piece.  Whether you knew his work intimately or in passing, it's a poignant and powerful telling of the last days of a writer.

Blurring the Line (non-fiction)

Woolen Shirts and Gum Boots – Lisa Morton – Set in the early 1900s, friends Annie and Florence plan a great escape to get away from Florence's abusive mother.

Clown’s Kiss – Tim Lebbon – Clown's should say all you need to know.  A beautifully written story of an aging widower living in Wellington Pond.  One day he see's clowns living next door and an increasing number of abandoned homes, but what is the reality.  Effective use of the anthology's theme.

Seeing is Believing (non-fiction)

Empty Cars – Lia Swope Mitchell – In the author's on words. "An absurd, methodical. and hopeless search for meaning by someone who's having trouble seeing any."

How Father Bryant Saw the Light – Alan Baxter – A somewhat disturbing story of a young priest doing what he can to help a young girl frightened by the Gangle Man.

Candlelight and Circles (non-fiction)

The Good Work – James Dorr – Are witches real?  You know, the scary kind in books and stories. The young witch hunters in James Dorr's story seem to think so.

Fearful Asymmetries – Peter Hagelslag – I absolutely loved this story.  A tale that seems all to possible in today's world where there is apparent danger lurking around every corner.  At what length will our governments and big business go to keep us safe.

Big Brother is Watching (and Predicting) You (non-fiction)

1-2-3 Red Light – Gregory L. Norris – I got a kick out of how the author took a simple game we played when I was a kid and created a terrifying short story of a traffic light with a murderous disposition.  Another story that was very successful within the parameters of the anthology.

Miskatonic Schrödinger – Steven Lloyd Wilson – "What if all of the things our unenlightened ancestors insisted dwelled in the darkness really did, and that it was shining lights into the darkness that we dispelled them?"  An interesting twist on Schrödinger's cat.

Monsters Don’t Exist (non-fiction)

Old Green Eyes – James A Moore – Looking for proof of the existence of a swamp monster. A well told tale that successfully blurs the line between truth and fiction.

A Peripheral Vision Sort of Friend – Alex C. Renwick – A story of the Suscon Screamer.  An actual urban legend I've heard of before.  Interesting how such legends differ, depending on who's telling the story.  True to the anthology's theme and a solid story from a new writer for me.

The Undiscovered Supernatural (non-fiction)

Consorting with Filth – Lisa Hannett – Ghosts blur the line for me more than any other type of entity or monster.  I want to believe, but all of the evidence I've seen can easily be misinterpreted or even faked.

Hoarder – Kealan Patrick Burke – A nice, disturbing little story.  You don't see many door to sales reps nowadays.  This story may help explain why.

Human Monsters (non-fiction)

With These Hands – Brett McBean – A story of ventriloquist who wanted to love children and be loved in return.

The Body Finder – Kaaron Warren – Frank has a gift...a gift for finding ghosts.  He's found and helped many over the years, just not the one he's looking for.  A very well told story.

Building Frankenstein’s Monster (non-fiction)

What’s A Monster without Resurrection? (non-fiction)

Salt on the Tongue – Paul Mannering – Story of a young boy whose mother finds him work with another family and forbids them to feed him.  Believe me, she has her reasons.

Every Time You Say I Love You – Charles L Grant – Another story of bringing back the dead from a true master of the genre.

Honey – Annie Neugebauer – Probably the most unusual story in the anthology, yet truly enjoyable.

The Voices Told Me To Do It (non-fiction)

Distorted and Holy Desire – Patricia J. Esposito – Is the guy who performs at the club an angel, a vampire, or just a man?

Nita Kula – Rena Mason  – A dark and gruesome ending to the anthology.  A solid story from Rena.

The anthology opens and closes with passages from the New International Version of the Bible. From Deuteronomy and Leviticus respectively.  Got me thinking, having read the Bible from cover to cover, it could just be one of the best horror books I've ever read.

Overall, Blurring the Lines was a book I enjoyed reading.  Some stories were much better than others, but reading this was definitely time well spent.

BTW, very nice cover art from Dean Samed.

Blurring the Line is available as an e-book now, with a print version to follow, from Cohesion Press. If you subscribe to Kindle Unlimited, you can read this one for no additional charge and if you are an Amazon Prime member you can borrow it for FREE from the Kindle Owners Lending Library.