Sunday, May 31, 2015
In his new Mick Callahan Novel, Harry Shannon, has Mick retired from the limelight of being a well known television psychologist, working now in private practice, doing his best to get his life together. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to realize that this would make a pretty dull story, but what happens to catapult our hero into action and call in every favor owed and more in hunting down a seemingly untouchable professional killer will rock his world and shock the reader.
It's one of those situations where you know something is going to happen, yet when it does it just about knocks you out of your reading chair.
Much like in the Sheriff Penny Miller zombie series, The Hungry, Harry Shannon imbues his characters with snappy dialogue and sharp attitudes. All of the characters in The Devil In the Clock are richly realized, none more so than Big Mike...
"Despite his fairly recent arrival in the city, the stories about Big Mike were already legendary. He had many enemies and a flair for the melodramatic when dispatching them. There was one story about severed heads used as bowling pins. The driver thought that one ridiculous, but the image was certainly chilling, and Uncle Lev had sworn he'd seen some cell phone video of Mike throwing a gutter ball."
Even when not immersed in non-stop action, Shannon has a way with words...
"A trio of teenaged girls appeared and stood to his right. The excited kids whirled in a chattering circle like a colorful ball of electrical energy, popping gum and competing to see who could use the word "like" the mot times." and later..."The giddy teenagers drifted away, like really babbling like happily like it was awesome."
The Devil In the Clock is told with lots of detail and very vivid images, as a result this one doesn't read like a story, it reads true, if you know what I mean.
I must admit, I had not read any of the previous Mick Callahan Novels. I picked this up because of how much I've enjoyed the author's zombie series, The Hungry, and I though it would be interesting to see what he would do in another genre. The result is satisfying, but I suspect it would be even more so if I had read the prior books. I'll have to go back and correct that one of these days.
The Devil In the Clock is available now in print and soon as an e-book through Amazon.com.
Friday, May 29, 2015
FUBAR: A Collection of War Stories - by Weston Ochse - 30 years of military expertise shines through
In his introduction to FUBAR, Weston Ochse comments, "This collection you're holding in your hands or listening to, for all intents and purposes, it is me."
This assemblage of short fiction, a novella, and essays puts Ochse's 30 years of military experience to good use. The adage, "Write what you know," is proven here, whether it's a piece on the rigors of basic training or fighting monsters from a rift in the desert of Arizona, each story rings with the sound of truth.
Although, nearly all of the tales in this collection have appeared elsewhere, only the most hardcore Weston Ochse fan is likely to have read them all. Personally, I had only read one before.
Mixed with his essays on the military experience are some excellent pieces of fiction. For me, one of the most enjoyable was "When I Knew Baseball." A slick combination of Lovecraftian horror and what it means to me a soldier. "Family Man," about a Vietnam POW of twenty years is a powerful story of survival. "The Last Kobyashi Maru" was just great. Powerful, sad, and still entertaining.
Nearly all of the fiction is spot on and I did enjoy the insights provided by the essays sprinkled throughout the collection and one more thing I really liked was the author's notes after each piece. I love seeing how a story comes together.
FUBAR: A Collection of War Stories is available now, in a variety of formats, from Cohesion Press who have made a name for themselves with their SNAFU series of Military Horror anthologies. Be sure to check those out, too.
Thursday, May 28, 2015
I'm always hesitant to read a book from someone who reaches out to me requesting a review, particularly if I've not read any of the author's previous work. However, if I say no, then I would miss out on surprises like Blood Red.
The story features a strong teenager named Rachel who, in the space of an hour, sees her entire world become a red-tinted nightmare. Most of the people in her world are gone, well not completely gone, they seem to be becoming something else. No this is not another zombie novel. What is happening is decidedly different and completely original in the horror genre.
Blood Red is filled with little treats, details that make the story. Example, with darkness coming there's a need for light. Instead of conveniently finding a flashlight in her Honda's glove compartment. The writer had Rachel and her friend break into a Target store by the light of a cell phone until it runs out of juice. A well-conceived scene played out to perfection.
Blood Red is incredibly imaginative and reveals its secrets slowly. Even though its a work of fantastical fiction dealing with impossibilities, I found the story to be believable and totally enjoyable.
Although we get some answers by the end of book 1, its quite evident that there is plenty left to be revealed in the subsequent volumes.
Published by Permuted Press, Blood Red is available now as an e-book from the usual online retailers. If you like it, book 2 is also available and book 3 should be published later this year. I'll be reading both for sure.
Tuesday, May 26, 2015
Something terrible happened before the fire that destroyed Cavus, Montana, in 1937. Now, it's happening again.
There was a lot I liked about Consumption. For example, the story of how John and Erma met and fell in love was magical; wonderfully crafted, ultimately believable, which made what happened next so heartbreaking.
I also liked the story of Lucy McClarin, told through her journal, the circus, and what happened in 1937.
Then there's the Black Squirrel Festival and finally, the Feeder and its influence over the people in this small Montana town.
For the longest time, it seems something big is about to happen, but it just remains hidden. There are moments of brilliance in Heather Hermann's writing and at times what is happening in Cavus is truly disturbing. As a reader, you just need to be patient with this story, when it all comes together, it does so with a big bang, and it all works rather well.
Overall, this is quite an imaginative horror story. I love the words the author has for her mother in the acknowledgments, "Mom, if it helps you can pretend this is just a children's book for adults." That it is.
Consumption is available as an e-book from Hydra, an imprint of Random House.
A combination of Hopi legend, fantasy, and space opera, Footsteps In the Sky is a complex tale of the Fifth World, the result of terraforming over millennia.
The story is set more than 400 years in the future, with the Hopi people inhabiting the Fifth World. They appear to be descendants from Earth's 20th Century Hopi. The tale is not so much about how they got there or even why, it's more about division, discovery, and the strong possibility that those who prepared this planet for them are thinking about starting over.
Although filled with intrigue, back-stabbing, and many original ideas, I just found this work to be a bit overbearing. It may be a matter of sensory overload since there was so much happening all the time.
A demanding read told in a convoluted way, Footsteps In the Sky was a nice diversion from my usual horror fare, but ultimately not something I would like to make a steady diet of. As challenging a read as this was, this is another time I was glad I saw this one through to the end as it is the kind of story that stays with you well beyond the time spent between the pages.
Footsteps In the Sky was originally written in 1994 and has been re-released as an e-book from Open Road Media and is currently available from a variety of online retailers.
Although I was glad I read it, I can't really recommend this to others. Of course, your mileage may vary, so don't let me stop you from giving it a shot.
Monday, May 25, 2015
If I had to find something to complain about with regards to the work of Rio Youers it would be that he is not terribly prolific. Three years since his last novel is a very long time. Of course, that last novel was Westlake Soul, one of my favorite books of the last five years and now he's given us another gem.
Point Hollow presents the reader with a new and intriguing premise that gets off to a wickedly good start. Old Bear Mountain is known to the locals as Abraham's Faith. At thirty-four hundred feet, it was the tallest of the peaks surrounding the town of Point Hollow. It was also a place of which the locals tend to steer clear.
When he was ten years old, Matthew Bridge had a terrifying experience with the mountain, one that would (although he couldn't recall what had happened) haunt his dreams well into adulthood and could end up costing him his marriage.
The characterizations in this novel are strong, Rio's skill at creating conversations is excellent, he shows the ability to do with words what a great artist can do with paints and a canvas.
At times disturbing and exceedingly dark, the story flows quickly through its 280 pages and is one of the most complete novels I've read in some time. The truth, when revealed, is horrible beyond words And the last third of the book was just a heart pounding race to the finish.
Youers may not be pounding them out like James Patterson or even Stephen King, but what he creates places him right up there with the leading writers of modern horror.
I can honestly say Point Hollow is my favorite read so far in 2015 and it's going to be a tough one to top. Do yourself a favor and get yourself a copy, available now in paperback or ebook from ChiZine Publications.
I give this one my highest recommendation.
Sunday, May 24, 2015
I sometimes think I should feel a bit guilty when I get excited about a book like Tuskers II. After all, it's just a tall tale of a group of survivors fighting off intelligent pigs or javelinas to be more precise, but truth be told, it's fun to check ones brain at the door once in a while.
I love it when a book starts with action right from the start. Within pages of the beginning of Tuskers II we find this gem..."He toppled over and fell into two parts. The lower part of his body went backward, the top part went forward, and the insides splashed wetly between them." No lie, chapter one will knock your socks off.
Despite the quick start, the story seemed to drag for a bit, but later broke some new ground as the porkers showed more intelligence than they had before, even displaying a hunger for learning. It was also interesting to see divisions developing in the ranks of the animals.
All told, Tuskers II: Day of the Long Pig was another fun look at evolution run amok. Available now from Angelic Knight Press, the horror imprint at Ragnarok Publications.
By the way, there is a huge twist at the end, which will play into subsequent books in the series.
Tuesday, May 19, 2015
"The official description of Crossfades described them as being like that moment in movies where Acts One and Two briefly coexist; they meld into a composite for a moment--both scenes visible, yet semitransparent--but eventually one asserts its dominion over the other and the plot moves on."
Chuck Grainger has a job that is at the same time both a dream and a nightmare. His official title was Recon and Enforcement Technician, Level II, he thought he'd be some kind of cosmic cop, but now he just feels more like a glorified janitor.
This story is out there, way out there. Much like Chuck when he's on assignment, trying to guide a soul who's passed on and for whatever reason can't quite cross The Divide. At times, surreal Crossfades is definitely creepy, and there is also an anomaly that has come up, leading to things getting out of control. Although above his pay grade, Chuck goes in to try and sort things out, and that's when the trouble really starts.
I really struggled to find the point of the story and it was really only my desire to always finish the books I start to read that kept me going. In the end, I was glad I did as there was a nice payoff for the reader.
Crossfades is published by Hydra, a Random House imprint and is available only as an ebook.
Recommended if you're feeling adventurous. I liked it enough to request the sequel Bleedovers which will be released on September 1, 2015.
Wednesday, May 13, 2015
All Good Things (The Breadwinner Trilogy Book 3) - by Stevie Kopas - Excellent finish to this zombie series
It's often said that the third time's the charm. The old adage has never been truer than in the final book in The Breadwinner Trilogy. When I read book 1, The Breadwinner, a few months ago, I was not overly complimentary. Things improved with book 2 Haven, and here we are, at the end of the series, with All Good Things. This was one of the best zombie books I've read in recent memory. Elevating my overall opinion of the series to the point where this is what you really should be reading to get over your zombie withdrawal while The Walking Dead is on hiatus.
All Good Things begins with the death of a principal character, an event that actually occurred at the end of book 2, but the fallout intensifies here. One of the things I really like about The Breadwinner Trilogy is that, although there are zombies and plenty of gore, it's really about the complex relationships of our little group of survivors. "...the small group locked away in Emerald City had found some sort of solace in one another. They'd found some remnant of normalcy in the things they did together to fill their time. No matter how insignificant it all seemed, there were plenty of reasons they gave one another to keep living."
In All Good Things I found the characters to be more fully developed, displaying real feelings and raw emotions. I also realized they had more to fear from each other than from the "eaters" as the author refers to her undead.
I'm happy to say there are several OMG moments in this book as Kopas does not hold back at all. No spoilers, but I can say the reader should expect the unexpected in this very satisfying conclusion to The Breadwinner Trilolgy.
All Good Things is available now as an ebook from Permuted Press, through Amazon.com, and will be in paperback soon.
Strongly recommended. Get the entire series and spend some quality time with the undead.
Saturday, May 9, 2015
The fact that Boom Town is dedicated to Art Bell and George Noory should tell you all you need to know about this fun little romp into the world of the unknown. Be it aliens among us, global conspiracies, or any other weirdness in the world at large, you're likely to hear about it on Coast to Coast AM. Still don't know what this is all about. Take a moment and google it.
Inspired by such madness, Glenn Rolfe has created an entertaining little diversion about the fictional town of Eckert, Wisconsin. It all started in 1979 when a young couple observed a saucer-like craft hovering over Hollers Hill. They saw a blue beam blasting down from the center of the craft into the hill and causing the ground to rumble. Now the "booms" are back. What does it all mean and what is the mysterious blue ooze discovered nearby?
Reminiscent of the great old-time creature features, Boom Town is quite imaginative and at times disgusting as such a story should be. Take them. Bring them. Ascend.
As enjoyable as this read was, I would have loved to have known more about what was really going on, but much like many of the mysteries explored on Coast to Coast AM, we may never know.
Boom Town is available now as an ebook from Samhain Horror and from Amazon.com.
Friday, May 8, 2015
The Bear Who Wouldn't Leave - by J.H. Moncrieff - Part of the Childhood Fears series from Samhain Horror and it's very good
"Sometimes evil looks like a fuzzy teddy bear." How's that for an opening line?
Josh Leary is your typical ten-year-old. I live with one of those and I'd just like to say what a fine job writer J.H. Moncrieff did in capturing the spirit, the attitude, and the fears of such a child. Fears like..."how I was always sure someone was chasing me whenever I ran upstairs from the basement." Ha, that was me when I was a kid, but those fears never stopped me from watching scary movies in the dark and then calling upstairs to my mother, asking her to turn on the lights so I could go to bed.
When his step-father gives him a stuffed bear with the unlikely name of Edgar, Josh wants nothing to do with it. After all, what ten-year-old boy wants a toy bear to begin with. Plus, there's the fact that Josh doesn't really like the new man in his mother's life. Truthfully, I couldn't say who I found creepier, Edgar or Josh's step-father.
The Bear Who Wouldn't Leave preys on those childhood fears and manages to juggle the three potential threats in a way that kept me guessing to the very end. Is it really Edgar doing all these bad things, is it Josh's step-father making it look like Edgar, or is there something wrong with Josh himself.
Part of what I loved about this novella was Josh's friend Sean, not his best friend, but a good friend whose creative cursing was magnificent.
Although the idea of an evil teddy is not terribly new, and at times you could easily predict what might come next, the result still hits you in the face like a ton of bricks.
A terrifically fun read with kids on an adventure and an evil teddy to boot.
The Bear Who Wouldn't Leave is a terrifically fun read which I finished in one sitting and as a result I will add J.H. Moncrieff to my list of writers to watch.
The book is available now as an ebook from Samhain Horror and can be purchased through Amazon.com.
For a quick, fun, horror read you can't do much better that this one. Highly recommended.
Unseemly Science is the followup to the well-received first book in the series The Fall of the Gas-Lit Empire. In both books there are some elements of Steampunk, certainly an element of Alternate History, and the feel of a classic Sherlock Holmes story as told by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Rod Duncan continues to weave these elements deftly into a wonderous tale of mystery and intrigue.
Slipping back into the world Rod Duncan has created for his characters to play in was a bit like putting on a well-worn, comfortable, pair of gloves. Set in the not so United Kingdom following a civil war which left Englad split into two separate countries, the Kingdom and the Anglo-Scottish republic.
The back-story of Elizabeth Barnabus follows. Elizabeth once lived in the Kingdom with her father. Through no fault of his own, and thanks to the Patent Office. his daughter is forced into the servitude of a Duke of the Kingdom. Before that could happen , Elizabeth escaped to the Republic where we find her 6 years later helping her "brother" in his business as a private detective.
In this new volume there is talk of an extradition treaty looming between the divided countries. This would not bode well for our heroine. While trying to avoid the authorities, Elizabeth stumbles onto a dark mystery putting her very life into jeopardy.
To be honest, I didn't care for Unseemly Science as much as I did The Bullet-Catcher's Daughter. For a good part of the book the writer broke no new ground, bringing back the same characters from book 1, but once we got into the mystery in the second half of the book, I found it much more enjoyable.
In addition I found the notes that begin each chapter to be very entertaining, particularly those from The Bullet-Catcher's Handbook.
Unseemly Science Book 2 in The Fall of the Gas-Lit Empire series is available now in both paperback and e-book formats from Angry Robot Books. No word on book 3, but if this one is a success, I wouldn't be at all surprised.
Recommended. BTW, this story works as a stand-alone, but I would recommend reading book1 as well.
Tuesday, May 5, 2015
Nightmare in Greasepaint (Childhood Fears) - by L.L. Soares and G. Daniel Gunn - If you have coulrophobia you may want to steer clear
With a cover featuring the most frightening clown since Pennywise (kudos to artist Scott Carpenter), Nightmare in Greasepaint will do nothing to ease your fear of clowns, particularly if you suffer from coulrophobia.
The opening of this novella from L.L. Soares and G. Daniel Gunn sets the mood perfectly.
"Some family legacies are best left buried.
Will Pallasso has brought his wife and young son, Billy, back to his childhood home to settle his late mother's affairs...and remove all traces of his haunted past. But now hideous memories are coming back to Will, and Billy has started suffering from night terrors. Returning to this house was a big mistake. Some memories should not be disturbed, and some nightmares will not stay buried forever.
Especially nightmares that wear greasepaint spattered with blood."
Nightmare in Greasepaint does not disappoint. The start of the story is more psychological horror with the house bringing back memories of what had happened to Will as a child and what he had done, but as the story develops the tension builds, much like the climb to the top of a super-coaster and then reaches incredible speeds as you plummet back to earth.
A very satisfying and quick read from Samhain Horror. Available as an ebook from their website and at Amazon.com.
Monday, May 4, 2015
Opening line..."She was born with the power to cure. Now she's developed the power to kill." I'm in.
Leah Degarmo is a veterinarian with the power to cure with just a touch, but her gift comes with a dark side: whatever she takes in she has to pass on, or suffer it herself.
I've read a number of stories recently where the principal character has interesting powers and I don't mind telling you they have all been among my favorites.
The Cure is certainly a page turner and I couldn't wait to see what was going to happen next. As the story grew and the pressures on our heroine mounted, so did her talents, what starts out as a simple way to help pets and their owners turns into something much more terrifying.
When her secret gets out and into the hands of some very bad people that's when it really hits the fan, but by the story's end when things seem to be calming down, they are actually much worse than ever.
With just a small suspension of disbelief, the plausibility of everything else is rather simple and there is an overall feeling of helplessness throughout. Every time you think you've seen the worst that could happen, something even worse happens. Fun.
I get the feeling the end is not really the end, although I have not seen any word on plans for a sequel, there is plenty left to be explored.
The Cure is available in paperback and ebook formats from Samhain Horror through their website and Amazon.com.